(WKBN) – A six-state trooper project is starting next week that focuses on distracted driving. It’s a special program as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month and troopers hope you see them on the road and act accordingly.
The high-visibility enforcement will include state police from Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia.
The initiative will begin this Monday at 12:01 a.m. and will continue through Monday, April 12 at 11:59 p.m.
Distracted driving remains a major problem — taking your eye off the road for a second can lead to tremendous traffic trouble.
“I mean, I know in Columbiana County our number one crash-causing factor is driving off the road. Well, there’s something that caused people to drive off the roadway,” said Lt. Les Brode, Lisbon Post.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates there are 1.6 million collisions every year caused by people who are texting on their phones.
Troopers say it’s not just an Ohio problem, which is why they’re glad to participate in a focus on distracted driving.
“Seeing more officers out on the road tends to have drivers pay a little more attention to what they’re doing,” Lt. Brode said.
There are three forms of distracted driving: eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind-off driving. When you text and drive, it’s all three forms of distraction.
Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field when traveling at 55 mph.
“We know that distracted driving is unsafe and irresponsible and that in just a split second, the consequences can be devastating,” said Staff Lt. Craig Cvetan, Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Ohio troopers say distracted driving resulted in 212 lives being lost in the last five years.
Distracted driving is a primary offense for anyone under 18. An officer can pull that person over just by seeing them using an electronic device. For other drivers, it’s a secondary violation.
“What we have to see is some other violation before we can stop that person and then issue them a citation for distracted driving,” Staff Lt. Cvetan said.
On Oct. 29, 2018, Ohio passed House Bill 95, a law that broadened what is considered distracted driving and increased the fine by $100 if it was a contributing factor to the commission of the driving violation.
“Whatever you think that you need to do, that text message, that phone call, taking a bite of that sandwich, it can wait. You should be focused on the driving,” Lt. Brode said.
A new trend is just pulling off to the side of the road to look at a message or answer a call, but that could make you a road hazard. Troopers suggest going to a parking lot instead.