The Delaware Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol is stepping up enforcement this month in an effort to curb distracted driving, which the agency reports is leading to increased traffic crashes and deaths statewide.
Lt. Robert Curry, commander of the Delaware Post, said Thursday local troopers will be using National Distracted Driver Awareness Month to “remind drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their focus on the roadway while driving.”
“Everytime someone takes their eyes or their focus off the road, even for just a few seconds, they put their life and the lives of others in danger,” Curry said. “Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. This is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field at 55 mph. Just imagine what can happen in that time.”
Curry added that from 2017 to 2021, Ohio reported 64,108 crashes involving distraction, which resulted in 206 fatal crashes involving 226 deaths. Curry said during this same time frame, troopers issued 31,516 citations for distracted driving.
Locally, Curry said troopers handled 275 distracted driving crashes in 2020, 322 in 2021 and 47 so far this year. He added local troopers issued 267 distracted driving citations in 2020, 299 in 202 and 51 so far this year.
Over the next month, Curry said troopers will be able to sign up to work federally funded overtime to specifically seek out and enforce distracted driving.
Jackie Bain, SAFE Delaware County Coalition Coordinator, said Thursday that in the 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index, the AAA Foundation reported that while nearly 96% of drivers believed it was very or extremely dangerous to read a text or email while driving, four out of 10 drivers admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days.
“People know texting and driving is dangerous and often illegal, but they selfishly give themselves a personal exemption to do it anyway, and this behavior unfairly puts others at risk,” Bain said. “Many drivers are guilty of a ‘double standard’ when it comes to distracted driving. Beginning April 7, if you text and drive, you will pay.”
In 2018, Ohio passed House Bill 95 which broadened what is considered distracted driving and increased the fine for drivers if distracted driving was a contributing factor to a driving violation.
Bain said her message to teens is that if they are in a moving vehicle and if the person driving is texting, talking on the phone or being reckless in any way, to speak up and ask that driver to stop.
“Ninety percent of teen drivers say they would stop if a friend asked, but teens should speak up to adults also,” Bain said.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.