Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced the formation of a permanent Distracted Driving Advisory Council Thursday. The council is aimed at changing the atmosphere surrounding safe driving in acknowledgment of safe driving month.
“Driving while texting, or eating, or dialing a phone should be as culturally unacceptable as drunk driving is today,” said Governor DeWine; adding:
When drivers choose to do anything that distracts them from paying full attention to the road, they choose to risk their own lives, the lives of their passengers, and the lives of everyone else around them.
Prior to the announcement, the task force released a 22-page pamphlet to inform drivers about the risks they are taking while driving distracted. The pamphlet contained detailed statistics surrounding the causes of incidents. The study was conducted by the Ohio Department of transportation.
“Now is the time to create a long-term, comprehensive plan that educates drivers, promotes changes in behavior, and strengthens Ohio’s distracted driving laws,” said DeWine.
According to the study, the state recorded around 14,000 distracted driving crashes in 2017. Of those incidents 58 people were killed, 493 seriously injured and over 7,000 people were injured statewide. The study concluded the majority of crashes happen during evening rush hour.
Cell phone use is a leading cause in distracted driving-related incidents, leading to 4,637 auto-deaths in 2018. Some states are more lenient than others when it comes to talking on a phone but far stricter on texting while driving. Texting has been banned in 48 states, The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The first state to take legislative action was Washington State in 2007.
Ohio was not far behind Washington state on outlawing texting while driving. In 2012, then-governor John Kasich signed Ohio’s first “texting” law, which made it illegal for all drivers to text while driving. In October of last year, the fine was increased to $100. The increase was the result of 13,997 distracted driving crashes that took place in 2017. The law also gives an officer the ability to fine a driver for being distracted, even if pulled over for a different infraction.
States have taken action on texting while driving, but state legislatures have realized texting is not the sole root of the problem. The study mentions that of the 15 states that passed “hands-free laws” 12 saw a 20% reduction or greater in driving-related fatalities. Officers have found that drivers can be distracted by pretty much anything.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Adam Doles of the Medina Post said he has seen a lot on the road. “I would have to say shaving was the craziest I’ve seen,” said Doles.
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Mitch Shirley is a reporter at The Ohio Star.