The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has implemented a series of signs — about 50 in total — along the high-accident portions of a 17-mile stretch of I-76 and I-80 warning of the dangers of distracted driving
It was announced yesterday that since the implementation of the signs, State Highway Patrol Lts. Jerad Sutton and Antonio Matos claim total crashes in the safety corridor dropped 38 percent in the second quarter, compared with the same time period from the previous year. Fatal and injury crashes are down 47 percent. In contrast, distracted driving violations are up 320 percent.
Each sign across the stretch advertises the zero tolerance policy for distracted driving, and are being used to influence safety enforcement laws. Distracted motorists can receive anything from a warning to a ticket depending on the offense and whether it involved an accident.
A new law that makes distracted driving — everything from talking on the phone to reading a book — a secondary offense in Ohio takes effect in late October and motorists could face fines up to $100 if stopped on a different violation.
Distracted driving includes but it not limited to playing with smartphones or radios, focused on eating, applying makeup, shaving or doing anything else that takes a driver's eyes off the highway. In addition to the signs, the patrol has also been handing out pamphlets designed to educate people about the dangers of driving distracted.
According to ODOT, the selection for these sections of I-76 and I-80 are influenced by its heavy traffic, boasting anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 vehicles a day passing by, depending on the specific location. It’s also one of the state’s most traveled stretches for trucks, with about 30 percent of the traffic being tractor-trailers.
Despite the area being a straight, flat stretch of road with no distractions, the area still experienced a high volume of accidents. 2016 documented 305 crashes while 255 occurred in 2017. This year, now that the signs have been implemented, there have been 123 crashes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that distracted driving was responsible for 3,450 deaths
nationwide in 2016, and in Ohio there were nearly 14,000 crashes involving distracted drivers, with 51 people being killed in 2017.
The signs are changed every three months to ensure that regularly traveling drivers don't tune out the message. The Distracted Driving Safety Corridor was designed to be mobile and will remain in Mahoning and Trumbull counties for two years as state authorities gather data to gauge its effectiveness. If it’s declared a success, then the signs and program will be moved to other high-volume accident areas throughout the state.