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In focus: Distracted Driving Awareness Month

A male driver using his phone while driving

Texting while driving is a problem that’s running rampant in our country, as distracted driving has become a widespread issue for motorists of all ages.

Distraction comes in many forms, including taking selfies, recording video, talking with passengers, programming a GPS, navigating mobile apps, eating, drinking, and personal grooming (e.g., fixing your makeup or styling your hair).

But when you’re behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, combining the visual, manual, and cognitive distraction that comes with reading or sending a text message is one of the riskiest activities you can do as a driver.

The data is clear: Distracted driving is deadly

If you’ve noticed more police cruisers out on the road recently, it might be because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has designated April as “Distracted Driving Awareness Month."

During April, local law enforcement agencies are stepping up their presence to enforce texting laws and provide drivers with a friendly reminder of just how dangerous it is to drive while distracted.

According to the most recent available data from the NHTSA:

  • Distracted driving fatalities increased 10% in 2019, as 3,142 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver.
  • A distracted driver was involved in 9% of all the fatal crashes that occurred in 2019.
  • From 2012-2019, distracted driving crashes were responsible for over 26,000 deaths.
  • Drivers ages 16-24 are the most likely to drive while distracted by an electronic device, though the numbers show older drivers are only slightly less at risk.

While these statistics shine a spotlight on the national distracted driving epidemic, data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol paints an even more grim picture for local drivers. According to the numbers, since 2013 there have been 100,000 distracted driving crashes in Ohio that have caused over 53,000 injuries.

To reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities from crashes caused by distraction, 48 states, including Ohio, have laws in place that ban texting while driving.

Hands-free driving law in Ohio

In Ohio, using a handheld electronic device to write, send, or read a text while driving is a secondary offense for adult drivers, meaning a police officer cannot pull a motorist over unless the driver first commits a primary traffic offense, such as speeding.

The penalty for such an offense is a fine of up to $150, but Governor Mike DeWine has proposed legislation that would strengthen Ohio’s laws on distracted driving.

"Ohio's current laws don't go far enough to change the culture around distracted driving, and people are dying because of it," DeWine said. “Distracted driving is a choice that must be as culturally unacceptable as drunk driving is today, and strengthening our current laws will lead to more responsible driving.”

The proposed bill would make driving while holding any electronic wireless device a primary traffic offense, including but not limited to:

  • Writing, sending, or reading text-based communications
  • Looking at or recording videos
  • Taking photos or looking at images
  • Livestreaming
  • Using mobile apps
  • Programming a GPS
  • Dialing a phone number
  • Holding a device for a phone call

Exemptions to the law include:

  • Using handheld wireless devices for emergency calls
  • While in a stationary vehicle outside of the lane of traffic
  • In hands-free mode to talk on the phone, speech to text, or listen to messages
  • In circumstances where an action can be executed with a single swipe

Those who repeatedly use electronic devices while driving would face increased fines under the Hands-Free Ohio bill, which also aims to mirror the penalties associated with drunk driving if a distracted driver causes a crash that results in serious injury or death.

How to prevent texting and driving

Whether you’ve had a close call or have been in a car accident caused by distracted driving, these tips can help you drive more responsibly:

  • Pull your vehicle over where it’s safe, such as a gas station or parking lot, if you must read/send a text message or otherwise look at your phone.
  • When driving with others, ask a passenger to be your “designated texter” so they can answer your phone calls, read your notifications, and respond to your messages.
  • If riding as a passenger with a distracted driver, ask the person to stop what they’re doing and focus on the road ahead.
  • Keep your guard up. You may give yourself a pass because you’ve never had an accident while texting and driving, but complacency can put you and everyone else on the road at risk of getting into a serious crash.

Tell distracted drivers you mean business. Get Gervelis Law Firm.

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident caused by someone who was texting and driving, distracted, or otherwise driving recklessly, call Gervelis Law Firm right away to protect your rights and learn your legal options.

Our Rapid Investigation Team can be onsite within 24 hours to gather and preserve evidence that may be critical to the outcome of your case. Whether it’s obtaining traffic video camera footage of the collision before it’s erased or seeking out eyewitnesses, our team won’t waste any time getting started on your claim.

Contact us today for a free consultation. Our car accident lawyers can aggressively advocate for your best interests and fight for the compensation you need and deserve. Our main office is located in Canfield and we have other offices conveniently located throughout Ohio, including Columbus, Warren, Akron, and Toledo.

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