CANTON – In 2019, the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) reported there were 13,505 distracted driving related crashes resulting in 42 fatalities in Ohio. Each of these crashes can be prevented. Drivers must make the choice to put down the distractions and state leaders are doing their part to bring this message home.
I-77 between Faircrest Street and Wise Road – a 14 mile stretch of highway running through Stark and Summit counties - had more than 1,800 crashes over a four-year period (2015-2018). Of those, 117 were identified as distracted driving related which the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) knows is vastly underreported. These statistics propelled ODOT to create the regions second Distracted Driving Safety Corridor.
“This is about saving lives and continuing to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “Corridors like this will remind drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and attention on driving, not the phone.”
This week, ODOT forces began placing the signage on I-77 alerting motorists when they enter the corridor and informing them of the increased enforcement area. Signs will be placed throughout the corridor reminding motorists of the dangers of distracted driving.
“The goal of the corridor is to improve safety, while reducing crashes, fatalities and injuries along one of Ohio’s busiest stretches of interstate highway,” said ODOT District 4 Deputy Director Gery Noirot. “We’ve seen success on the state’s first Distracted Driving Safety Corridor near Youngstown where deadly and injury crashes are down 30 percent.”
According to the OSHP, traffic fatalities on Ohio roads have increased in five of the past six years. Provisional data shows that 2019 was the second-deadliest year of the past decade with at least 1,157 people killed in Ohio traffic crashes. Distracted driving has without a doubt played a role in this uptick of fatal crashes.
“The number of lives lost on Ohio roadways is staggering,” said Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Tom Stickrath. “Today’s vehicles are safer than ever, however motorists must still make the choice to be safe behind the wheel and obey speed limits, buckle-up, drive sober, and put down distractions.
Enforcement by OSHP and the city of Canton Police Department will begin as soon as all of the corridor signage is in place, which is expected to be Friday, April 24.
“Troopers will be highly visible and looking for traffic violations that cause many of the crashes in this area,” said Colonel Richard S. Fambro, Patrol superintendent. “Driving distracted is unsafe, irresponsible, and in a second its consequences can be everlasting.”
A total of five Distracted Driving Safety Corridors will be in place across Ohio this year. In addition to these safety corridors, state law makers are working on legislative changes to make distracted driving a primary offense in Ohio.
The Ohio General Assembly is currently considering Senate Bill 285, legislation that would make holding or touching an electronic device while driving illegal in most cases.
“Distracted driving should be as culturally unacceptable as drinking and driving.” said Director Marchbanks. “Distracted driving hurts, it kills innocent people, and it devastates families.”
ODOT will continue working with the OSHP and local law enforcement to identify and establish distracted driving safety corridors to ensure the safety of all motorists who traverse Ohio’s roadways.