Read a few basics about distracted driving and distracted driving laws.
Distracted driving is a growing public safety problem. Always being “on” or “on the go” is dangerously turning “off” safe driving habits. From the morning cup of coffee on the drive into work to text messaging behind the wheel, distracted driving is real and consequential. Beyond the obvious cost of lives, injuries, and property damage, distracted driving is putting upward pressure on automobile insurance rates.
Distracted driving is on the radar of automobile insurance companies. Factors such as rising medical expenses of injured claimants in auto accidents, costly property damage and liability claims, as well as the correlation between distracted driving and a greater likelihood of at-fault accidents are relevant. The statistics do not favor those who mistakenly believe they can multitask behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported more than 3,000 deaths in 2017 were due to distracted driving. According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, in 2017 nearly 14,000 drivers in Ohio crashed while being distracted by something within their vehicle. Fifty-one of these crashes were fatal and resulted in 55 deaths. Some studies indicate a link in the reduction of traffic fatalities in all age groups in jurisdictions with tighter enforcement of distracted driving laws. Undoubtedly, automobile insurance companies are tracking and studying statistics and enforcement of laws related to distracted driving.
A new law went into effect in October 2018 in Ohio, which makes distracted driving a secondary offense for adult drivers over the age of 18. Distracted driving in Ohio now includes a broad scope of driver activity, which includes much more than cell phone usage or texting. For example, eating, drinking, applying make-up, or driving with a pet in your lap are all considered driver distractions. What is meant by secondary offense? Generally in Ohio*, adult drivers over the age of 18 may not be stopped by a police officer only because he or she thinks you were distracted while driving. However, if a police officer stops you for any other traffic violation (such as speeding, running a stop sign, lane violation) and also notices you were texting, the police officer can cite you for the primary traffic offense as well as for the second offense of distracted driving. Drivers under the age of 18 in Ohio may still be pulled over for distracted driving as a primary offense, i.e. the police officer does not need to observe another traffic violation. Also, in Ohio, drivers under the age of 18, as well as drivers with a temporary instruction permit, are not permitted to use a cell phone or electronic device while driving.
*Ohio’s distracted driving law does not prohibit local jurisdictions from enacting stricter legislation than is provided in the state law. For example, in 2019 legislation was passed in both Lakewood, OH, and Olmsted Falls, OH, which makes texting while driving a primary offense. Some local communities have made all cell phone use a primary offense. If you drive in any of the five states that border Ohio, i.e. Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, be aware that text messaging is a primary offense for drivers of any age in all five of these states. (See http://bit.ly/2QrIjvb)
Safe driving is a singular task. Whatever has the potential to take either your eyes or attention off the road or your hands off the wheel, even momentarily, is a distraction. Turn driving “on” and distractions “off.”
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