If you are one of the many Ohio drivers who still takes a peek at your cell phone while you are behind the wheel, you have likely heard the many warnings about the dangers involved. Not only are you placing other drivers at risk of an accident, but you are placing yourself at risk of incurring legal penalties if police cite you for texting and driving.

Distracted driving is a problem in every state, and thousands of people suffer injuries from accidents caused by drivers who allow their phones or other distractions to take their attention away from the road. Because of this, local and federal laws continue to tighten, and safety advocates increase their efforts to impress upon drivers the importance of remaining focused when driving.

Enhanced penalties

Until recently, however, if Ohio police pulled you over for committing a moving violation, the officer would have to have proof that you were also texting in order to charge you with a distracted driving offense. A new law says that police no longer need that proof. They only need to note that you were dealing with a distraction at the time of the violation to place you at risk of enhanced penalties.

The consequences of committing a moving violation while distracted include a $100 fine added to the fine assessed if the court convicts you of the traffic offense. For example, if you receive a conviction for running a red light, you will pay the fine related to the red-light violation plus a $100 enhancement for the distraction.

Don’t take it lightly

An alternative to the enhanced penalty is to complete a one-hour online course created by the Ohio Department of Safety. The course describes distracted driving and explains the potential consequences and risks involved. In order for the court to drop the enhanced penalty, you must pay your fine for the original infraction and submit evidence that you completed the online course.

Any traffic offense carries penalties that go beyond paying a fine or attending a remedial driving course. A conviction, or a guilty plea, means the charge remains on your driving record for the rest of your life. This may jeopardize your chances for obtaining certain jobs, increase the premiums you pay on your insurance and complicate your life in other ways. No traffic ticket is a simple matter, and you would do well to seek legal counsel before making any decisions about how to handle the matter.