Now that increased vaccinations and pandemic restrictions are being lifted, law enforcement and other agencies are reminding motorists to focus more on the road and not their smartphones as roadways become busier.
Distracted driving remains a growing traffic safety problem. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index found 96% of drivers believe typing or reading on a hand-held cellphone while driving is very or extremely dangerous, but nearly 39% admit to reading and 29% admit to typing on a smartphone at least once while driving within the last month.
In, 2019 distracted driving crashes killed 3,142 people in the United States, an average of 9 deaths per day. That number was up 10% from the year before (2,839 deaths in 2018), according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In Ohio, there were 41 fatal crashes in 2019 as a result of distracted driving, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol. There were 49 individuals killed as a result of those 41 crashes.
“We want to remind people that distracted driving is not only texting or talking on your cellphone but it can be a variety of things: eating, drinking, doing your makeup, having a dog on your lap, arguing with your kids in the backseat all are considered distracted driving if it causes your driving behavior to change and it becomes hazardous,” said Dayton police Sgt. Gordon Cairns, traffic services unit supervisor.
If a person were driving 55 mph and looked away from the road for two seconds, his or her car would travel 161 feet, more than half a football field or 12 car lengths, Cairns said.
“In those two seconds something or anyone could jump out in front of you, or a car could slam on their brakes and you would miss that,” he said.
As the weather is warmer, Cairns said it is all the more important for motorists to avoid distractions and to be vigilant for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, as well as children in neighborhoods who could dart out into the street.
Dayton police officers also will be out during prom season to focus on distracted driving as well as OVI violations, he said.
The goal of the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month this month is to remind drivers that the consequences of both alcohol-impaired driving and smartphone use behind the wheel could be the same – crashes resulting in deaths and injuries, according to AAA
AAA is also releasing a new television announcement targeting drivers who text while stopped at a red light or stop sign and highlights the “hangover effect” delay in which the mind stays distracted after interacting with a cell phone or technology.
Previous AAA Foundation research found a driver’s mind remains distracted for up to 27 seconds after using a smartphone or other electronic devices to send text messages, make phone calls or update social media.
In February, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reaffirmed his commitment to improving safety on Ohio’s roads by strengthening Ohio’s distracted driving law with the “Hands-Free Ohio” proposal. Ohio is one of four states in the country without primary enforcement laws for adult drivers using wireless devices for text-based communications or any other purpose. Currently, using a wireless device to write, send, or read a text-based communication while driving is a secondary offense for adult drivers.
Troopers are paying attention
Distracted driving is something that state troopers are watching for, according to Trooper Jessica McIntyre, patrol spokeswoman for southwest Ohio.
“It’s something we’ve done for years and it will always be a focus as people are busy and are on their phones and driving,” she said.
While the patrol does various enforcement blitzes year-round, McIntyre pointed out that the Springfield post troopers have been focusing on seat belts, speed and distracting driving.
In addition, the District 7 office of the Ohio Department of Transportation and the highway patrol recently teamed up to designate the Miami Valley’s first Distracted Driving Corridor on Interstate 75 between the I-70/I-75 interchange and Dryden Road (Exit 50A) in Moraine. The multi-jurisdictional corridor spans 11 miles of I-75 for targeted enforcement. ODOT has erected signage to warn drivers to focus on the road.
The patrol said distracted driving safety corridors have proven effective in other areas of the state, most notably the state’s first safety corridor along I-76 and I-80 in Youngstown where deadly and injury crashes decreased by more than 30 percent.
An additional distracted driving corridor in southwest Ohio is planned for I-70 in Clark County.
McIntyre said there are no corridors planned for Butler, Warren and Hamilton counties at this time.
The public is encouraged to use #677 to report dangerous or impaired drivers, as well as drug activity.
Distracted Driving related crashes
Year: 2020 – 10,983 crashes in Ohio/29 fatal crashes
Clark County: 159 crashes/3 fatal*
Butler County: 323 crashes/0 fatal
Greene County: 156 crashes/1 fatal
Montgomery County: 576 crashes/0 fatal
Warren County: 234 crashes/ 0 fatal
* The three crashes in Clark County, due to distracted driving, are the most in a single county.
SOURCE: Ohio State Highway Patrol website; AAA Miami Valley and Northwest Ohio
About the Author