COLUMBUS – This year, April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month coincides with the start of stricter distracted driving laws in Ohio, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol is reminding motorists to keep their eyes and focus on the roadway while driving.
“Distracted driving is dangerous, irresponsible and just as deadly as driving drunk, and beginning today, distracted driving is now a primary traffic offense in Ohio,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “This new law will undoubtedly save lives and spare many families the incredible pain of losing loved ones in senseless and preventable crashes.”
Since 2018, 209 people lost their lives as a result of distracted driving. During this same timeframe, distracted driving led to 62,324 crashes in Ohio with 21,652 resulting in injuries. Because drivers are reluctant to admit to distracted driving, the actual number of distracted driving crashes, injuries and deaths is believed to be significantly higher.
“Keep your focus on the road,” said Colonel Charles A. Jones, Patrol superintendent. “Every time you take your eyes off the road, you’re putting the lives of everyone on the road at risk.”
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity with the potential to distract a person from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing. Distractions can be visual, taking eyes off of the road; manual, taking hands off the wheel; or cognitive, taking the mind off driving. Texting while driving is an example that results in all three types of distraction. Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field when traveling at 55 mph.
With Ohio’s new distracted driving laws now in effect, law enforcement officers will now have probable cause to pull over motorists if they witness them illegally using an electronic communications device to manually input text, dial a phone number, or hold or physically support that device with any part of the person’s body while driving. Some exceptions exist, and emergency calls will be permitted in all circumstances. In early October, officers will have the authority to issue citations. Until then if drivers are stopped, officers will warn drivers and educate them on the dangers of distracted driving. Resources for motorists regarding the new law can be found at PhonesDown.Ohio.gov and an educational video can be watched or downloaded here.
For more information, a traffic safety bulletin with distracted driving statistics from 2018 – 2022 can be found here.