By Linda Dillman
If you use your hands to text or dial a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle, the warning period for violating Ohio’s new hand’s free law is over and as of Oct. 5, law enforcement is issuing violations for people caught with their phone in hand while driving.
“Back in April we made an announcement about the new distracted driving law,” Madison Township Police Chief Gary York at the Madison Township trustees’ Sept. 26 meeting.
“There was a six month educational time frame and that’s coming to an end. If officers witness a violation, they can stop them (driver). You can be cited for a first offense a $150 fine and two points for a moving violation.”
For a second offense in two years, three points are assessed to a license and a driver could pay up to a $250 fine. If there is a third or more offense in two years, four points are assessed to a license, up to a $500 fine, and a possible 90-day suspension of driver license.
Fines are doubled if the violation occurs in a work zone.
“The penalties get pretty stiff for violations,” York said. “We want to make the community safe. We’re trying to get that message out to the public.”
The new law allows drivers over 18 to make or receive phone calls using hands-free technology such as Bluetooth or systems integrated within their vehicle as long as they do not hold or support the device or manually enter letters, numbers of symbols.
Drivers under age 18 are restricted from using their devices in any way.
Hands-free non-emergency calls can only be made or received by drivers age 18 and older via a speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headset, electronic watch or connecting the phone to a vehicle. Texting, dialing, browsing social media, video calls or FaceTime, browsing the internet, watching videos, playing games, and recording or streaming video are not allowed while driving.
If a driver must physically manipulate their device, they should pull over to a safe location and park their car.
Exceptions include drivers reporting an emergency to law enforcement, a hospital, health care provider, fire department, or similar emergency entity; holding a phone to their ear only during phone conversations, if the call is started or stopped with a single touch or swipe; holding or using cell phones and other electronic devices while stopped at a traffic light or parked on a road or highway during an emergency or road closure. First responders (law enforcement, fire, EMS) can use electronic devices as part of their official duties. Utility workers operating utility vehicles in certain emergency or outage situations, licensed operators using an amateur radio and commercial truck drivers using a mobile data terminal can also use electronic devices as part of their official work.
Other Madison Township news
•York reported on two resolutions later approved by the trustees regarding a grant and purchase of 22 body worn cameras, licenses, and accessories to replace current equipment no longer supported by the manufacturer after 2025.
The total cost is $83,356. The Axon manufacturer program allows for a five-year payment program and delivery could be within four to six weeks. The purchase qualifies for an OCJS State of Ohio reimbursement grant, which the trustees approved in order to submit the grant application.
“We feel we have a pretty good chance because the vendor is going out of business,” York said. “They have more advanced technology than what we already have.”
•The police department is conducting a free women’s self-defense class on Oct. 21, 9 a.m. to noon at the Madison Township Community Center. However, space is limited to 30 participants. For more information or to sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 614-836-5355 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.