MORPC Works to Reduce Distracted Driving

March 13, 2020

Through its work in transportation safety and public policy advocacy, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) continues to raise awareness of the dangers distracted driving poses on our roadways.

Last fall, MORPC and the Ohio Department of Transportation released the Central Ohio Transportation Safety Plan. Developed in collaboration with local, state, and private transportation safety experts, the plan serves as a framework for how safety can be improved through the region’s roadways.

The plan shows that between 2013 and 2017 in Central Ohio:

  • 12,933 crashes were reported as being distracted driving related.
  • 26 people were killed in a crash reported as distracted driving related (5 percent of all fatalities).
  • 290 people were seriously injured in a crash reported as distracted driving related (6.7 percent of all serious injuries).

Distracted driving includes any activity that can potentially pull a driver’s attention away from driving. Three major types of distractions are: visual, when the line of sight leaves the road; manual, when the driver’s hands leave the wheel; and lack of focus, when attention is directed away from driving.

A crash is defined as related to distracted driving if the reporting officer records a driver distraction on the crash report for any unit involved in the crash. It does not necessarily indicate that a distracted driver caused the crash. Distracted driving can also be difficult for a reporting officer to determine, resulting in under-reporting.

“Every day, you can look out of your cars window and see a driver using their cell phone. Although they know it is dangerous and illegal, they do it anyway – putting others at risk. If your attention is anywhere other than on the road, you’re driving distracted, and you’re endangering other people.”
MORPC Director of Planning & Sustainability Kerstin Carr

The regional safety plan includes the goals of reducing both the number of fatalities and serious injuries related to distracted driving crashes by 8 percent between 2017 and 2025. Two ways to work toward that end are through legislation and education.

MORPC was on hand as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced details of legislation that would modernize Ohio’s distracted driving law to require hands-free use with primary enforcement – meaning law enforcement officers can stop and cite motorists. The legislation prohibits drivers from having physical contact with their phones or other wireless devices while driving or stopped in a lane of traffic. State Senator Stephanie Kunze, from Hilliard, and northeast Ohio State Senator Sean O’Brien are the joint sponsors of the recently introduced legislation, known as the Hands-Free Ohio Bill.

“MORPC has a long history of leading on transportation safety and implemented an internal policy in 2011 banning staff from driving while distracted. We look forward to partnering with Governor DeWine and the General Assembly in passing legislation that makes our roadways safer and protects all of our residents.”
MORPC Director of Government Affairs & Strategic Initiatives Joe Garrity

The bill, Senate Bill 285, is supported by MORPC. It would impose fines of $150 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, and $500 and a possible license suspension for each additional offense.

National Distracted Driving Awareness Month is once again in the month of April. In recognition of the month, MORPC will once again be encouraging Central Ohio drivers to put down their phones.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), any visual interaction with an electronic device takes your eyes off the road for approximately five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that equates to driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

If you’re driving, follow these steps for a safe driving experience:

  • If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
  • Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
  • Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving. Cell phone use can be habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Put the cell phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of the vehicle until you arrive at your destination.


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