Amateur Radio News

Ohio Driver Distraction Law Exempts Ham Radio Operators

Last year it became illegal to use or hold a cell phone or electronic device in your hand, lap, or other part of the body while driving on Ohio roads. If an officer sees a violation, they can pull you over. Drivers over 18 years old can make or receive calls via hands-free devices, including a speakerphone.  

Ohio’s new distracted driving law can be found in Section 4511.204 of the Ohio Revised Code. It started in April 2023 with only warnings issued. Full enforcement of the law began in October 2023. Penalties can consist of:

  • First offense in two years: two points assessed to driver’s license, up to a $150 fine*
  • Second offense in two years: three points assessed to license, up to a $250 fine
  • Third or more offenses in two years: four points assessed to license, up to a $500 fine, possible 90-day suspension of driver’s license
  • Fines doubled if the violation occurs in a work zone

 * Completion of a distracted driving course can help avoid fines and points.

Hands Free Ohio Graphic

So how does this affect ham radio? After all, there is an electronic device in your hand when you are talking on a speaker microphone to a mobile transceiver. Well, I present to you:

(1) “Electronic wireless communications device” includes any of the following:

(a) A wireless telephone

(b) A text-messaging device

(c) A personal digital assistant

(d) A computer, including a laptop computer and a computer tablet

(e) Any device capable of displaying a video, movie, broadcast television image, or visual image

(f) Any other substantially similar wireless device that is designed or used to communicate text, initiate or receive communication, or exchange information or data

An “electronic wireless communications device” does not include a two-way radio transmitter or receiver used by a person who is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to participate in the amateur radio service.

-Section (H) (1) from Section 4511.204 of the Ohio Revised Code

The last paragraph in Section (H)(1) specifically calls out amateur radio as an exception!

You might want to keep a copy of your FCC amateur radio license in your vehicle and maybe even a copy of the section above that exempts licensed amateur radio operators. Law enforcement has a lot of rules to remember, and this is just a good way to help yourself if an incident occurs.

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at

Editor’s note: Ohio joins many other states with similar restrictions. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 34 states—along with U.S. territories—prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving; 49 states ban text messaging for all drivers. Mobile operators are advised to check their own state’s driving distraction laws for wording regarding use of ham radio devices.

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