The basics of texting-while-driving laws in Ohio and Kentucky

Simply put, distracted driving is extremely dangerous. According to numbers reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 3,100 people were killed in accidents involving distracted drivers in 2013 alone.

Given these hazards, it likely comes as little surprise that many lawmakers - including some in the Obama administration - have called for a nationwide federal ban on texting while driving over the last few years.

Despite these efforts, however, laws associated with cellphone use and texting largely remain in the hands of state and local lawmakers. For instance, even though no federal ban exists, the Governors Highway Safety Association reports that 46 states have passed their own texting-while-driving bans, including both Ohio and Kentucky. Until a broader nationwide law is put into effect, these state-level bans are the best way to combat the growing risk of car accidents attributed to texting and distracted driving.

Understanding the similarities and differences in Ohio and Kentucky laws

Statutes in both Ohio and Kentucky make it clear that writing, sending or reading text-based communications is prohibited when behind the wheel - although some important exceptions exist, including when:

  • The driver needs to use his or her cellphone for emergency purposes, such as requesting medical assistance or reporting illegal activity to the police
  • The driver is entering a name or number into a cellphone for the sole purpose of making a phone call

Also, both Ohio and Kentucky laws place additional restrictions on young or novice drivers. For instance, in Ohio, a driver with a temporary instruction permit under the age of 18 - or a driver with a probationary driver's license - cannot use a cellphone in any way while driving, including to make telephone calls. Similarly, Kentucky law states that a driver under the age of 18 cannot operate a vehicle while talking on, or texting on, a cellphone.

Probably one of the most significant differences between the texting bans in Ohio and Kentucky is that texting while driving is considered a primary offense in Kentucky - meaning police can pull over drivers solely for texting. Conversely, police in Ohio cannot stop drivers for texting alone, and can only cite a driver for texting after stopping him or her for another offense, such as speeding.

Interestingly, some Ohio lawmakers have proposed legislation that would make texting a primary offense for Ohio drivers, although it is still too early to know if this legislation will ever pass.

Legal guidance may be needed

Sadly, despite the various laws against texting while behind the wheel, countless motorists continue to do it every day. In fact, according to the NHTSA, roughly 660,000 drivers can be found using their cellphones at any given daytime moment on U.S. highways. Until drivers put down their cellphones, however, accidents will continue to happen.

If you have been injured by a texting motorist, it is important to remember that you may be entitled to damages, including compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering. Contact an experienced attorney today to learn what your rights and options may be.