COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The month of April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and Ohio State Highway Patrol is taking that message to the roads.
“We have troopers out there, looking for distracted driving violations,” said Staff Lieutenant Craig Cvetan with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Cvetan said from 2016 to 2020, their agency filed over 20,000 citations for distracted driving. In that same time period, there were over 66,000 crashes here in Ohio that involved one or more drivers who were distracted.
Some of those crashes were even fatal, resulting in the loss of at least 212 lives.
“It’s more than just receiving a citation; we talk about 212 lives lost, you know,” Cvetan said. “Those are mothers, fathers, somebody that was important to someone else.”
Franklin County leads the state of Ohio in the number of distracted driving crashes, and now, state law is working to crack down on violators by not only banning all forms of electronic or wireless communication for drivers under 18, but also making texting while driving illegal for all motorists.
If distracted driving contributes to another moving violation, then further penalties will apply.
However, Cvetan said their goal isn’t to fine people, but instead keep them from attempting to drive while distracted.
“What’s really important here is for people to not even look at their phones, put their phones down, to not be on their phones while they’re driving because, really, it just takes a second, you take your eyes off the road for a few seconds, and we could have a tragedy on our hands,” Cvetan said.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, more than one in three distracted drivers in Ohio were between the ages of 16 to 24 years old.