Stuart F. Cubbon, Esq./Victoria A. Case
All of us have seen and heard numerous public service campaigns warning us about distracted driving, especially regarding texting and driving. We’ve even blogged about it before (May 2018) and for good reason. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,166 traffic accident fatalities in the US during 2017 that were caused by distracted driving www.crashstatsnhtsa.gov/API/Public/ViewPublication/812700.
Did you know that when driving at 55 mph if you take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds, you will travel the length of a football field per www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving.
Distracted driving is not just texting while driving. There are four types of distractions while driving:
1. Visual – eyes off the road
2. Auditory – listening to or hearing something that distracts
3. Manual – texting, eating, holding a child or animal, adjusting radio controls
4. Cognitive – “auto pilot”, not remaining focused on the road ahead.
The odds of crash involvement nearly doubles when a driver engages in visual or manual cell phone tasks and more than doubled when they were texting, compared with when the same drivers were under similar traffic and environmental conditions without engaging in any visible non-driving tasks. The effect of visual and manual cell phone interactions on a driver’s odds of crash involvement was greatest for types of crashes in which the driver played a clear active role. For example, visual and manual cell phone interaction tripled a driver’s odds of involvement in a road departure crash. It also increased a driver’s odds of rear-ending the vehicle ahead by more than seven. CRASH RISK OF CELL PHONE USE WHILE DRIVING: A CASE-CROSSOVER ANALYSIS OF NATURALISTIC DRIVING DATA, Fact Sheet, January 2018, https://aaafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/18-0105_AAAFTS-AAAFTS-Cell-Phone-Crash-Risk-Fact-Sheet_FNL.pdf
Given the increase in accidents caused by distracted driving, Ohio updated their traffic laws against distracted driving in 2018. The Ohio Department of Transportation reported in 2017 that 13,997 drivers in Ohio crashed and that 51 of these crashes were fatal, resulting in 55 total deaths. Another 4,668 drivers were in injury-causing crashes resulting in a total of 6,988 injuries, www.dot.state.oh.us.
Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.204, the statute for texting and driving, states that “no one shall drive while using a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication.” www.codes.ohio.gov. The penalty for violating the statute is a minor misdemeanor. However, Ohio has created a distracted driver course for offenders who plead guilty or are convicted of a specific traffic violation while distracted. This course is available in lieu of paying the enhanced court fine of $100 or less, providing the offender pays the total amount of the fine established by the violation and submits written evidence of completion of the distracted driver course. https://www.drivertraining.ohio.gov/courses.aspx
If one is under the age of 18, the penalties are steeper. A juvenile will be fined $150.00 and have their license suspended 60 days. If it is a second offense, or if “previously found to be a delinquent child or juvenile traffic offender” the fine is $300.00 and a year license suspension (Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.205.)
Drive safely and without distraction!