AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but as it comes to a close, many will be hitting the road for summer travel.
On Friday, AAA, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio State Highway Patrol came together in Austintown Township to highlight the dangers of distracted driving.
It takes about four and a half seconds to send a text message. Highway Patrol says at 55 miles an hour — that’s the time it takes to travel 100 yards — if you’re doing both, officials with AAA claim it’s like driving blindfolded.
“Sounds ridiculous, but essentially, it’s what you’re doing every time you decide to text and drive,” said Jim Garrity with AAA.
As part of its “Put Down the Phone” campaign, the auto club, ODOT and Highway Patrol are reminding motorists to avoid distracted driving, especially in highway work zones.
“We’re all someone’s son, we’re someone’s brother, friend, sister. It doesn’t matter. We wanna get home,” said Brian Dell, an ODOT construction worker from Hubbard.
Dell has had plenty of close calls on the job, including one that occurred while he was sitting in his truck.
“All of a sudden, on the right side of me in the grass, someone passes me full speed, 65 miles an hour. I didn’t have a chance to react or know what was going on,” Dell said.
Although AAA’s plans for its distracted driving campaign aim to stigmatize that behavior, just like driving drunk, the numbers here in Ohio keep getting worse.
According to Highway Patrol, 226 people have died in Ohio in the last five years in distracted driving accidents, with more than 64,000 crashes and more than 31,000 citations. Last year, there were 154 crashes involving ODOT crews and 77 more already this year, 17 of which happened in this six-county region.
“So for texting, cell phone calls, GPS, any of that, it can wait, please,” Dell said.