Distracted driving has become one of the most serious health concerns facing Butler County and Ohio, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Patrol spokesman Lt. Robert Sellers told the Journal-News that in 2016 in Ohio there were a total of 26 distracted drivers involved in 26 fatal crashes that killed 29 people. In 2015, a total of 39 distracted drivers were involved in 39 fatal crashes that killed 43 people in the state.
“In 2017, there have been 30 fatal traffic crashes attributed to distracted driving,” Sellers said.
Lt. Clint Arnold, Hamilton post commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said from 2015 to 2016 the number of reported distracted drivers rose 5 percent after rising 11 percent from 2014 to 2015.
“Distracted driving is unsafe and irresponsible. In a split second, its consequences can be devastating,” Arnold said.
He added that 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.
Each day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver, according to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study notes anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction. Sending a text message, talking on a cellphone, using a navigation system and eating while driving are a few examples of distracted driving, the report revealed.
Sellers shared data from Ohio State Highway Patrol that indicated texting and using the phone took a backseat to “other activities inside the vehicle.”
Of the 30 distracted driving crashes in 2017, 16 of them involve “other activities,” he said, while only seven are attributed to using a phone.
Eating and reaching for items in the vehicle while not paying attention to the road are a few of the things that fall into the “other activities” category according to Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Col. Paul A. Pride said all of the categories add up to a disaster on the road.
“Distracted driving is a reckless and dangerous behavior,” Pride said. “If you’re behind the wheel you need to be completely focused on driving.”
He also said Ohio law bans all “electronic wireless communication device” use for drivers under 18. Texting while driving is illegal for all drivers, as a secondary offense.
To go along with distracted driving, drugged driving has also presented a problem for law enforcement on the roads.
A survey of Tri-State motorists conducted by AAA found 74 percent believe those who drive after using illegal drugs pose a very serious threat to their safety. The survey also found 71 percent view those who drive after drinking alcohol as a very serious safety threat.
Some law enforcement officials view drugged drivers — those under the influence of legal or illegal drugs — as a larger threat than distracted or drunken drivers.
“They don’t wait to get home to take the drugs, so they are driving while taking the pills,” said Kenneth Parker with the U.S Attorney’s Southern District Office told the Journal-News. “You have all of these ticking time bombs out there.”