Distracted driving overhaul needed in Cleveland

Posted at 5:18 PM, May 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-26 11:02:55-04

Remember the push years ago for people to wear seatbelts? Over time, people changed their behaviors, and wearing seatbelts now is second nature. Well, these days, drivers are poised for a new change, a desperate need to do away with distracted driving.     

5 On Your Side Investigators caught some wild driving on camera in Cleveland and showed what can be the result.

"Not only did I lose my dad, I lost my mentor and I lost my best friend," said Tina Yanssens while starting to tear up. She is still hurting.

Yanssens’ father, Dave Muslovski, was on his morning walk wearing a bright vest when he was run over by a person texting and driving.  Someone passing by stopped, lied next to him, and let him know he wasn't alone as death was near.

"That gave us a lot of peace knowing that somebody was with him, though, because we should have been there for him," said a tearful Yannssens.

That was six years ago. Yanssens has made it her mission to spread the word about distracted driving here in Ohio and across the country.

"A lot of people say, ‘Oh, texting and driving that doesn't relate to me. I don't do it. I know your battle. I don't do it.’ Well, my dad never did it either. Never once sent a text message and he was still a victim," she told us.

With a camera in hand and sitting in the back seat of our news vehicle, it was easy to get video of people around Cleveland eating with no hands on the wheel, drinking, smoking, vaping, tying a tie and, of course, lots of texting and driving or people playing with their phones.

Despite tons of money being poured into street signs, campaigns against texting and driving with millions of pledges, education, and even a guy who has a Facebook page where he publicly shamed texting-drivers.

It's not getting better. The Ohio State Highway Patrol reports the number of distracted drivers jumped 11 percent from 2014 to 2015. Plus, distractions cause more than one crash per hour in Ohio.

We found a taxi driver talking on a phone and moving the van without having hands on the wheel, government vehicles with people eating and driving, a woman manipulating a phone and a speaker with a child in the back seat, and so much more.

In Ohio, texting and driving is a primary offense for people under 18 meaning police can pull them over if they see them doing it.  However, for adults, it's only a secondary offense. Officers can cite them only if they're committing another violation at the time.  "As adults, aren't we supposed to lead by example?" questioned Yanssens.

We did dig up a recent bill (H.B. 88) introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives that would make texting and driving a primary offense.  It still has to go through the legislative process. In the meantime, there are many apps that can help you and your teens drive more safely.  Also, we did find a well-reviewed product called Drive ID made by Cellcontrol.  It combines an app and a windshield mounted device that connects to your phone. While the car is moving, it disables the phone. You can utilize GPS, dial 911, use the phone through your car's hands free system, and other features, but you won't be able to text. There’s a customizable plan that you can devise to fit your needs.

There have been so many advances in safety where actual cars are safer, seatbelts are being used more, but phones and distractions are slowing us all down. "One of my reasons of continuing this battle against distracted driving is because too many innocent people and families go through what we went through,” said Yanssens.

Distracted driving is nearly 100 percent preventable. It's up to us all to change our habits.

If you think texting and driving should be a primary offense, contact your Ohio congressman.