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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

Highway Patrol Cracks Down On Distracted Holiday Drivers

Two highway patrol cars parked in the median on a Cleveland freeway. [Michael T Hartman / Shutterstock]
Two highway patrol cars parked in the median on a Cleveland freeway.

There has been an increase in the number of deaths on Ohio's roads due to distracted driving. At least 51 more people have died already this year. That's why the Ohio Highway Patrol will be stepping up enforcement efforts on the state’s roads this holiday season.


A total of 1,119 people have been killed in traffic crashes in Ohio this year to date. In 2018, 1,068 people lost their lives in traffic accidents for the full year. Gov. Mike DeWine says over the last five years, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, there have been 1,171 crashes involving distracted drivers.

"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," DeWine says.

Last year, there were 13,713 crashes in Ohio that involved a driver being distracted by their phones or other devices. 

"Those numbers are not just statistics, they represent lives - parents, spouses, siblings and friends," says Colonel Richard S. Fambro, Ohio State Highway Patrol superintendent.

Terry Dawson knows that pain all too well. His Mother-in-law, Delma K Ross, lost her life in a crash caused by a distracted driver in Licking County on Christmas Eve in 2017. Dawson and his wife rushed to the scene right after the accident to be with his Father-in-Law, who had been put in an ambulance for transport. Dawson says his wife was permitted to "pray at the vehicle with her Mother."

"Christmas now is not a very joyful event for us," Dawson says.

DeWine says people need to realize how dangerous distracted driving really is. And he says there needs to be a cultural change. 

“Distracted driving must be as culturally unacceptable as drunk driving," DeWine says.

Ohio law bans drivers under 18 from using cell phones but it’s not a primary offense for adult drivers. DeWine says he wants to change that. 

“Look this needs to be changed. It needs to be a primary offense. We will be presenting something to the legislature shortly," DeWine says.

The patrol has provided a statistical. county - by- county map of distracted driving crashes. You can find it here: https://statepatrol.ohio.gov/doc/Distracted_Driving_HolidayUpdate_2019.pdf.

Copyright 2019 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.