Phones down: Keeping Ohio’s roads safer


By Dean Fadel

Guest columnist

If you drive on Ohio’s highways (or any highway across the U.S. for that matter), you’ve undoubtedly seen it – the driver next to you looking down at their phone to send a text or check social media. They’re only looking away from the road for a second, right?

Not so fast. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2022, more than 3,300 people were killed and nearly 290,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes on U.S. roads involving distracted drivers.

With statistics like these all too common, Ohio’s property and casualty insurance companies have worked diligently to promote public safety initiatives, including the state’s strengthened distracted driving law that went into effect last year.

Now, distracted driving is a primary traffic offense, and drivers can be immediately pulled over for violating the law. In fact, the first offense leads to two points assessed on your driver’s license and up to a $150 fine. The fine doubles if the violation occurs in a construction zone.

Each April marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of the dangers of checking that phone for “just a second” – and this April gives us reasons to celebrate. According to new data released by the Ohio Departments of Public Safety and Transportation, in the last year since passage of the law, distracted driving in Ohio is already down by 8.6%. This equates to 3,600 fewer crashes, 2,000 fewer injuries, and 17 fewer deaths.

While we’re certainly moving in the right direction, there is more to be done. As parents often say, our children see and hear everything. Now is the time to model good driving behavior for Ohio’s future drivers. We teach them from an early age the dangers of drunk driving, and distracted driving should be seen in the same way.

This April, and every time you get in the car moving forward, commit to putting down your phone until you reach your destination. It sounds overly simple, but it could be a matter of life and death. And no text message is more important than that.

The writer is the president and CEO of the Ohio Insurance Institute, which is the trade organization comprised of property and casualty insurance companies and related organizations throughout the state of Ohio.

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