Ohio governor wants distracted driving made primary offense


Jack Marchbanks, right, the Ohio Transportation Department director, reflects on the damage caused by distracted driving in the state, at a news conference promoting safe holiday driving and also attended by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. DeWine said he wants distracted driving made a primary offense and promised a legislative proposal soon. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP/WANE) Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says it’s time that distracted driving be reason enough to pull someone over. The governor said Friday it’s also time for a cultural recognition that texting or calling while driving is as dangerous as drunken driving.

Distracted driving includes texting, making calls or surfing the internet while driving. It is currently considered a secondary offense for drivers over 18, meaning police must have another reason to pull someone over. The Republican DeWine says he hopes to bring a proposal to the Legislature soon to make it a primary offense.

According to a news release issued by the governor’s office, a total of 1,119 people have been killed in traffic crashes in Ohio this year to date, as compared to 1,068 traffic deaths during the entire year of 2018. Overall, traffic fatalities have increased in five of the past six years.

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“Distracted driving involving smartphones is, without a doubt, a major contributing factor to this increase in traffic fatalities, which is why I’ve asked the Ohio State Highway Patrol to increase enforcement of distracted driving violations over the holidays,” said Governor DeWine. “As we launch into one of the busiest travel times of the year, the way we drive will impact how many people are home for the holidays and how many people ring in the new year.”

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, more than 91,000 distracted driving crashes occurred in Ohio from 2013 to today resulting in more than 47,000 injuries. A total of 305 people were killed in distracted driving crashes during the same period. Because drivers don’t always admit to distracted driving, the actual number of distracted driving crashes, injuries, and deaths are believed to be significantly higher.

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