Distracted driving drawing law enforcement attention

The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSP) and local law enforcement agencies are working to combat an ongoing problem of distracted driving.

“What the public needs to know is that distracted driving includes, eating, drinking coffee, changing a radio station, trying to pick up something off the floor, attending to children and texting,” said Public Affairs Commander Lt. Robert G. Sellers of the OSP, Sellers said. “Distracted driving is actually the everyday behaviors most everyone does, we just don’t think about it that way. Distracted driving is any behavior that takes your attention away from the primary responsibility of driving.”

In Ohio, there is a ban on all cell phone use (hand-held and hands-free) for novice drivers, which is a primary law. There is a ban on texting for all drivers which is a secondary law, meaning the driver can’t be cited for texting unless they were first stopped for another offense.

According to U.S. government's website for distracted driving, distraction.gov, 3,179 people were killed, in 2014 and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Data released by the government’s site, also revealed that five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.

Sellers said there has been a concerted effort by law enforcement to address the issue.

“Yes there has because distracted driving continues to increase,” he said. “We made it the focus of one of our multi-state enforcement initiatives this past July.”

The initiative was “aimed at providing combined and coordinated law enforcement and security services in the areas of highway safety, criminal patrol and intelligence sharing.”

It included highway patrols from six states including Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“We focus on distracted driving daily, not just once a year,” Sellers said. “Distracted driving is reckless behavior that is taken seriously by the troopers of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.”

In Butler County, law enforcement has been dealing with heroin addicted distracted drivers, as addicts have been caught shooting up as they attempt to navigate the highways and streets in residential neighborhoods.

Hamilton police Officer Eric Taylor told the Journal-News that, “officers have seen drivers passed out at stop lights after using the drug with their car still in gear. The problem is a serious one, and it is nationwide.”

The OSP and local law enforcement agencies are hoping that the public will become vigilant about the issue of distracted driving.

“The public needs to recognize this and modify behaviors accordingly so everyone on the roadways are safe,” Sellers said. “If you’re behind the wheel, you need to be completely focused on driving. Your life, or someone else’s, is not worth a text.”

The percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipu­lating handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014.

Since 2007, young drivers (age 16 to 24) have been observed manipulating electronic devices at higher rates than older drivers.

A 2015 Erie Insurance distracted driving survey reported that drivers do all sorts of dangerous things behind the wheel including brushing teeth and changing clothes.

At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.

The survey also found that one-third of drivers admitted to texting while driving, with three-quarters of those saying they’ve seen others do it.

Source: Distraction.Gov, official US Govt. website on driving while distracted.

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