CLEVELAND (WJW) — Law enforcement is gearing up to enforce a new law that would make distracted driving a primary reason to be pulled over and cited.
“In a nutshell, the headline is put your phone down,” said Sergeant Ray Santiago with Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Senate Bill 288 goes into effect in April. Drivers found in violation of the law could face a $150 dollar fine and two points on their license unless a distracted driving safety course is completed. There will be a six-month grace period for enforcement.
According to the office of Gov. Mike DeWine “unintentional motor vehicle crashes” are among the leading causes of death for teenagers and young adults in Ohio.
OSHP reports the busiest time of day for distracted driving crashes is during the evening rush hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. State patrol data shows young drivers under the age of 24 accounts for 39 percent of distracted driving crashes.
“Well, that leaves about 61 percent of other age demographics that are contributing to this problem,” said Santiago. “Since 2018, there’s been over 60,000, nearly 61,000 crashes that have been distracted driving-related. This is going to allow us to intercede hopefully before a crash happens but definitely before we have to observe another offense from occurring.”
Driver safety is also an issue the Summit County Sheriff’s Office is tracking closely.
“It’s a serious problem and fatality crashes, not just distracted driving, as high as they’ve been for almost 20 years,” said Inspector Bill Holland with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. “Vehicles, with what they are now the dashboards and the technology in them, it takes the attention of the driver away from the road and that’s very dangerous. A split second can be a life-or-death situation.”
Distracted driving was previously only a primary offense for juvenile drivers.
State patrol reports sending or receiving a text on average takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, equivalent to driving the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour.