Safe Communities

A cell phone is used to record a live press conference while Sandy Wiechman, Safe Communities coordinator, speaks in Lake Township on Friday about distracted driving.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the Bowling Green post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol is reminding drivers to keep their eyes and their focus on the roadway while driving.

The patrol will also be joining forces with other members of the 6-State Trooper Project to focus on distracted driving enforcement. The initiative begins today and continues through April 12 at 11:59 p.m.

Over the last five years, 212 people lost their lives as a result of distracted driving. During this same timeframe, distracted driving led to 66,181 crashes in Ohio.

Statistics show that male drivers accounted for 55% of all distracted driving crashes and 64% of the related fatal crashes. Nearly one in three distracted drivers were between the ages of 16 and 24. Because drivers are reluctant to admit to distracted driving, the actual number of distracted driving crashes, injuries and deaths are believed to be significantly higher.

Eight people in the United States are killed each day by a distracted driver, according to Wood County Safe Communities.

“People often say, ‘I can do two things at once. I’ve memorized where the numbers are on my phone, so I don’t have to look.’ Or, ‘Sending or reading one text is pretty quick – that should be OK.’ They couldn’t be more wrong,” said Sandy Wiechman, Safe Communities coordinator.

According to a 2014 special article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of a crash or near-crash among novice drivers increased with the performance of many secondary tasks, including texting and dialing cell phones.

During this month of distracted driving awareness make a conscious effort to put away the phone while in the car. Drive without distractions, don’t be a distraction as a passenger, and always pay 100% attention when in a vehicle, Wiechman said.

“Distracted driving must become as culturally unacceptable as impaired driving is today. They’re equally avoidable and equally dangerous,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “Allowing something to take your focus off the roadway is irresponsible and the consequences can be troubling for Ohio families.”

On Oct. 29, 2018, Ohio passed House Bill 95, a law which broadened what is considered distracted driving and increased the fine if it was a contributing factor to the commission of the driving violation.

“When you take your eyes off the road — even for just a few seconds – you are putting your life and the lives of others in danger,” Lt. Bob Ashenfelter, commander of the Bowling Green post said. “There is nothing more important than the safety of yourself, your passengers and other motorists — everything else can wait.”

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.

As a reminder, Ohio law bans all electronic wireless communication device usage for drivers under 18. Texting while driving is illegal for all drivers and is a secondary offense for adults 18 and above.

The 6-State Trooper Project high-visibility enforcement will include the Indiana State Police, Kentucky State Police, Michigan State Police, Pennsylvania State Police and the West Virginia State Police, as well as OSHP.

From 2016-20, distracted driving resulted in 212 lives lost on Ohio’s roadways. 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.

“By driving distracted, you are putting yourself and the lives of others at risk,” said Col. Richard S. Fambro. “Every time someone takes their eyes off the road – even for just a split second, its consequences can be devastating.”

The 6-State Trooper Project is a multi-state law enforcement partnership aimed at providing combined and coordinated law enforcement and security services in the areas of highway safety, criminal patrol and intelligence sharing.