The Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) are teaming up again to establish a new distracted driving safety corridor along 12-mile stretch of State Route 161/State Route 37 between New Albany and Granville in central Ohio’s Licking County.
[Above photo by the Ohio DOT]
The first such safety corridor launched by the two agencies in August 2020 significantly reduced distracted driving-related crashes as well as fatalities and injuries resulting from those crashes during the first five months of its existence.
“Distracted driving is happening at an alarming rate throughout Ohio, and all drivers must do their part to reverse this trend,” noted Governor Mike DeWine (R) in a statement.
“Corridors like this one will educate drivers about the dangers of driving distracted and reinforce [the message] that nothing is more important than keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes and attention on the road,” he added.
Ohio DOT crews are installing signs along the 12-mile stretch of State Route 161/State Route 37 to alert motorists when they enter the corridor that there is “zero tolerance” when it comes to unsafe driving behaviors – with OSHP providing increased enforcement.
From 2018 to 2020, approximately 200 crashes occurred on the SR 161/37 corridor between Beech Road and State Route 16 – nearly a quarter of which resulted in an injury or fatality. According to OSHP, troopers have issued 169 distracted driving citations on that stretch of road since 2020.
“We’ve seen great success building awareness through the use of distracted driving safety corridors in other areas of the state,” noted Jason Sturgeon, deputy director for Ohio DOT’s District 5. “In less than a year, the safety corridor on U.S. 33 in Fairfield County saw a dramatic decrease in crashes and fatalities, prompting a decision to relocate the corridor to Licking County.”
Distracted driving is an increasing problem on U.S. roadways, with crashes involving a distracted driver killing 3,142 people in 2019 – the latest year for which data is available – which is up nearly 10 percent from 2018.
While every state currently has restrictions in place to address distracted driving, those laws vary in scope and rigor. Some states – including Ohio, Michigan and Utah – are considering legislation in 2021 to enhance their distracted driving laws.
Recently, the AAA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Governors Highway Safety Association, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the National Safety Council recently unveiled a collaborative “checklist” that can serve as a roadmap for communities that are establishing or expanding automated enforcement programs.
“Research by IIHS and others has shown consistently that automated enforcement curbs dangerous driving behaviors and reduces crashes,” noted IIHS President David Harkey. “We hope this document developed with our highway safety partners will help communities take full advantage of this tool.”