According to statistics from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, over 80 percent of Americans believe distraction behind the wheel is a very serious problem that makes them feel altogether less safe on the roads and highways.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration unfortunately shows that this belief is well grounded in reality, as 3,179 people lost their lives and another 431,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2014 alone.
Indeed, chances are good that as you made your way to work or school today, you observed other drivers casting momentary glances into their laps — a telltale sign of texting — or blatantly using their smartphones in some capacity.
As disturbing as all this is, it’s worth noting that efforts are underway in Columbus to try to combat the problem of distracted driving here in Ohio.
Reps. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and Jim Hughes (R-Columbus) have recently introduced House Bill 95, which calls for distracted drivers to pay higher fines.
Specifically, if passed, the measure would dictate that those drivers determined to be distracted — meaning engaging in activities that impair the ability to drive safely and are unnecessary to operate a motor vehicle — by a “handheld electronic communications device” would be fined an additional $100.
For those unfamiliar with Ohio law, texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement cannot pull a motorist over solely for this conduct, but rather only ticket them for it after first pulling them over for a primary offense (speeding, etc.).
It’s worth noting that HB 95 exempts hands-free devices, and that drivers would be given the option of completing a distracted driving class in lieu of paying the $100 fine.
The prospects of HB 95 passing remain uncertain, however, given that at least three bills combating distracted driving — including one by Seitz and Hughes calling for the exact same penalties — have failed to advance over the previous two sessions.
Stay tuned for updates …
If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to the actions of a distracted driver, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your options for your rights and your options.