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Ohio tries new approach to combat distracted drivers

Do you know a driver who is constantly checking his or her text messages while behind the wheel? Maybe you know someone who gets so distracted listening to a morning podcast that he or she has accidentally cut someone off in traffic?

If so, you might want to give that person some warning that the Highway Patrol is watching for just that sort of thing -- especially along the nation's first "Safety Corridor."

The section of highway that's been given that distinction is the part of Interstate 76 and Interstate 80 between State Routes 534 and 193 near Akron and Cuyahoga Falls. It's one of the most heavily-traveled stretches of road in the state thanks to commuter traffic. It's also the scene of a lot of distracted-driving accidents.

Too many, say officials. Ohio has had more than 64,000 crashes and over 22,000 injuries attributed to distracted drivers since 2013. Common distracted driving behaviors include:

  • Smoking
  • Eating and drinking
  • Changing the radio
  • Personal grooming
  • Talking on a cellphone
  • Texting

All of those activities divert some part of the driver's attention away from the road and make it easier to get into an accident.

The state is determined to make a change, so they are warning motorists along the designated safety corridor that officers will strictly enforce driving infractions -- especially distracted driving behaviors. If an officer sees someone on a cellphone or otherwise distracted, that driver will be pulled over and issued a ticket.

Signs will be posted to alert motorists of the enforcement area. Officers intend to focus on educating people about the hazards presented by distracted driving. They will be giving offenders pamphlets that include information about why the human mind doesn't actually multitask very well.

According to research, true multitasking is a rare skill. Instead, people often switch their attention back and forth rapidly between routine tasks. Unfortunately, that doesn't allow for the type of focus that driving needs.

Source: Galion Inquirer, "Ohio launches Distracted Driving Safety Corridor," Russell Kent, April 25, 2018

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