COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – Every year, thousands of Ohioans find themselves involved in a vehicle accident caused by distracted driving.
From 2013 to 2018, more than 800,000 accidents were attributed to distracted driving and 268 people were killed as a result, according to the state of Ohio.
Governor Mike DeWine says those numbers are probably lower than what actually occurred.
A Distracted Driving Taskforce convened by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Public Safety has come up with four recommendations to curb accidents resulting from distracted driving.
Enhancing the education of drivers is one of those recommendations, while making it easier to enforce laws and stiffen their penalties are others.
Right now, law enforcement does not have the ability to pull someone over if they see them driving distracted unless they have another moving violation that rises to a primary offense, such as not wearing a seatbelt.
Even when they do pull someone over and have an opportunity to give them a citation for distracted driving, there are 10 exceptions.
Further, it is only illegal to text and drive if you are under 18 in Ohio.
According to DeWine, who was citing from an AT&T survey, about 1/3 of drivers called distracted driving a habit.
“That’s what they said; it’s a habit. One that is so common that many don’t see it as a problem at all,” said DeWine. “We all know it is a problem. I’m here today to say that it’s time that Ohio changes that culture around distracted driving.”
DeWine wants to get people to look at distracted driving the way they look at drunk driving now. He says the law is a teacher.
Ultimately, it will be up to the legislature to make laws that have teeth and can be enforced. DeWine says his administration will be reaching out to lawmakers to try and convince them to do that.
“We should not think of distracted driving crashes as accidents,” said DeWine. “Distracted driving, as we know, is truly a choice.”
DeWine also announced he will be asking for tougher rules for public employees working for the state when it comes to driving.