BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – The next time you drive Interstate 680, you may notice a change.
As of Friday, new signs are announcing the start of the “Distracted Driving Safety Corridor.”
The State Highway Patrol and Youngstown Police say, if they catch you driving distracted, you’re going to get a ticket.
When OSHP troopers and local police established the first distracted driving corridor in Ohio along I-76/80, fatalities and crashes in that area were cut by 30% in 2018.
But over the last four years, there have been more than 900 crashes on this portion of I-680, six of them fatal.
“Notifying someone that their loved one is not coming home is not pleasant. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult things we as law enforcement officers do,” said Colonel Richard Fambro of OSHP.
Officers kicked off the new effort Friday, saying even though traffic over the last year has been down, in part, because of the pandemic, they’re still seeing crashes and fatalities rising. They’re blaming a lot of that on distracted driving.
“You’re gonna immediately see an increase in YPD officers not only on 680 but throughout the city streets for this distracted driving problem,” said Captain Jason Simon of Youngstown Police.
Starting Friday, an 11-mile stretch of I-680, between Route 224 in Boardman and Lanterman Road in Austintown, will be a no tolerance zone, focusing on those driving recklessly while using their cell phones.
“Distracted driving causes too many problems. First, it creates a cognitive distraction that slows our reaction time and narrows our field of vision. Second, it takes our eyes off the road. Talking or texting on the phone can increase the odds of being in a crash up to 12 times,” said Gery Noirot, district deputy director of the Ohio Department of Transportation.
While there will be new signs reminding drivers to put down their phones, police and troopers will be on the ground and in the air looking for those driving distracted or too fast.
In the meantime, officials are hoping the state legislature takes action as well.
“The Governor’s ‘Hands Free Ohio’ proposal to make electronic device usage a primary offence in the state is an important step toward curbing this behavior,” said Jack Marchbanks of ODOT.
For now, the stepped-up enforcement will remain in effect as long as it’s needed.