What You Need to Know: Recent Ohio Traffic Law Updates and Introductions in 2023

    Ohio Traffic Laws Undergo Major Changes: What You Need to Know for 2024

    In recent years, Ohio has seen significant changes to its traffic laws, and more modifications may be on the horizon as we enter the new year. Governor Mike DeWine signed a distracted driving law in January, which came into effect in April. During the initial six-month grace period, law enforcement officers issued warnings to motorists. However, starting from October 5th, penalties were imposed for distracted driving offenses.

    Under the new law, the penalties for distracted driving include fines and points on your driver’s license. For a first offense, you can face a fine of up to $150 and two points on your license. A second offense within two years can result in a fine of up to $250 and three points. If you commit a third offense within two years, you may face a fine of up to $500, four points on your license, and a 90-day license suspension. Additionally, fines are doubled for those caught using cellphones while driving in work zones.

    Despite these stricter penalties, Ohio has seen a decline in road violations since 2021. According to Lieutenant Nathan Dennis of the State Highway Patrol, there has been a decrease in the number of crashes, citations, and fatal crashes in recent years. From January 2021 to November 2021, there were nearly 10,200 crashes, 10,500 citations, and 32 fatal crashes. In the same period in 2023, these numbers dropped to 7,400 crashes, 6,800 citations, and 22 fatal crashes.

    Lt. Dennis attributes this decline to increased education and awareness about road safety. He emphasizes the importance of focusing on the roadway and practicing safe driving habits, such as wearing seatbelts, avoiding impaired and distracted driving, and following speed limits. Lt. Dennis hopes that these efforts will lead to a safe year on Ohio’s roads in 2024.

    Looking ahead to the new year, there are several pieces of legislation that could impact Ohio’s traffic laws. One proposed bill, H.B. 37, aims to increase penalties for operating a vehicle while impaired (OVI) and aggravated vehicular homicide in specific circumstances. Introduced by Reps. Mark Johnson and Kevin Miller, this legislation targets repeat offenders and seeks to address the issue earlier in the process.

    In addition to H.B. 37, there is a sub bill that covers various areas, including fines, ignition interlocks, mandatory OVI plates, and look-back periods. The goal is to enhance deterrence for lower-level offenders while imposing stricter penalties for those with prior offenses resulting in fatalities.

    Another proposed legislation, S.B. 178, addresses failure to change lanes or proceed with caution around a stationary vehicle in distress. Introduced by Sen. Steve Wilson, this bill aims to alleviate confusion regarding motorists’ responsibilities when encountering a disabled or stationary vehicle. The law would require drivers to either pull over or slow down when they see emergency lights or hazard signs.

    In an effort to provide financial support for families affected by OVI-related accidents, Rep. Tom Young and Rep. Adam Mathews introduced H.B. 270. This legislation would require felony offenders of OVI-caused aggravated vehicular homicide to pay child maintenance when the victim is a parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a minor child. It also allows child maintenance to be awarded in wrongful death actions when the offender is deceased.

    Additionally, Rep. Richard Brown has sponsored H.B. 140, which focuses on changing the current laws regarding passing school buses. The bill seeks to increase criminal penalties for drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses and establish an escalating penalty for repeat violators within a five-year period. It also addresses the use of external school bus video cameras and proposes educational measures to raise awareness among motorists.

    While these legislative proposals may bring further changes to Ohio’s traffic laws in 2024, it is essential for all drivers to stay informed and adhere to current regulations. By prioritizing road safety, including abstaining from impaired and distracted driving, following speed limits, and respecting the rights of other motorists, we can collectively contribute to a safer year on Ohio’s roads.

    In conclusion, Ohio’s traffic laws have undergone significant changes in recent years, with additional modifications on the horizon for 2024. The implementation of distracted driving penalties and the decline in road violations demonstrate the effectiveness of educational efforts. Proposed legislation, such as H.B. 37, S.B. 178, H.B. 270, and H.B. 140, aims to further improve road safety, address repeat offenders, and protect vulnerable road users. As motorists, it is our responsibility to stay informed, follow the laws, and prioritize the safety of ourselves and others on the road.

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