CLEVELAND — October is distracted driving awareness month, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol has a short, simple message for drivers: pay attention behind the wheel.
Over the last several years, state troopers have seen the number of distracted driving tickets and crashes explode. The patrol just wrapped up a 6-week long enforcement along the Ohio Turnpike where 60 drivers were issued citations for distracted driving.
“Looking down at the radio, on their cell phone, applying makeup, eating their lunch. Those are all things that take their attention away from the task of driving and make it all the more dangerous,” said Sgt. Ray Santiago of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
In the state of Ohio, distracted driving is currently a secondary offense. In order for troopers to initiate a traffic stop, another violation needs to occur. However, certain municipalities have passed their own ordinances making it a primary offense within their city limits.
In 2019, there were 8,564 distracted driving citations issued in the state of Ohio. Locally, there were 1,184 tickets handed out.
"It's become one of our primary crash-causing violations. It's always been speeding and following too close and impaired driving, but in recent history, distracted driving has become more prevalent with advances in technology,” Sgt. Santiago said. “Subsequently, it's something that we now have to focus on as being a crash causing violation and taking steps to keep folks safe."
Since 2015, there have been 248 people killed in crashes related to distracted driving on Ohio roadways.