Ohio Highway Patrol tells drivers to focus on road

T-L Photo/SHELLEY HANSON Texting and driving is an all too common occurrence in the Buckeye State, where 13,997 crashes in 2017 resulted in 51 deaths due to distracted driving. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol is reminding drivers to put their phones down and keep their focus on the road.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers know the dangers of distracted driving, and they are observing National Distracted Driving Awareness Month as an occasion to remind motorists to keep their eyes on the road.

Distracted driving is defined by Distraction.gov as “any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increases the risk of crashing. Distractions include: texting or talking on a cellphone, talking to passengers, eating, adjusting the radio, using a navigation system, etc.”

With the widespread use of smartphones and other such devices, texting and driving has become more common — sometimes with lethal results. According to information released by the patrol, 13,997 reported crashes in the Buckeye State in 2017 occurred due to a distraction, and 51 of those crashes proved deadly. The number of fatal crashes nearly doubled between 2016 and 2017.

Texting while driving can take the driver’s eyes off of the road for approximately 4.6 seconds.

When a vehicle is traveling at 55 mph, a text can take their eyes off the road for a distance equivalent to the length of a football field.

This can cause drivers to crash into another vehicle or leave them with less time to react to something occurring in front of them, leading to accidents.

“Every time someone takes their eyes or their focus off of the road — even for a few seconds — they put their lives and the lives of others in danger,” Lt. James Faunda, commander of the St. Clairsville patrol post, said in a news release. “Distracted driving is unsafe and irresponsible. In a split second, the consequences can be devastating.”

In Ohio, the law bans any electronic wireless communication device usage for drivers under 18. It also prohibits texting while driving, which is a secondary offense for all drivers. That means a driver pulled over for another offense can also be cited for texting while driving if an officer observes that behavior.

During the awareness month, the patrol is taking the opportunity to urge all Ohioans to put their phone down while driving and concentrate on reaching their destination. Faunda added that for the first time ever, the St. Clairsville post has received federal overtime funding to allow troopers to specifically focus on distracted driving offenses during the month of April.

Faunda said that while distracted driving often is interpreted by people to mean only texting and driving, a number of factors in a vehicle can distract the driver from the road — especially with newer vehicle models containing electronic displays and apps. He said that aside from keeping their focus on the road, the No. 1 way drivers can protect themselves while traveling is by wearing their seat belts.

“Just focus on driving, that’s the task at hand,” Faunda said. “Make sure you reach your destination safely.”


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