Highlights from the Ohio Distracted Driver Course
On Oct. 29, 2018, the state of Ohio revised its definition of distracted driving and enhanced its penalties. In lieu of paying the extra $100 fine on top of the penalty for committing a moving violation, drivers can complete a Distracted Driver Course. But even if you don’t zip down the freeway at 120 MPH while noshing on a burrito, petting five puppies running loose in the cabin, and video chatting with your friends, the course still offers plenty of helpful information and sobering statistics to keep you safe on the road.
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What is distracted driving?
In the past, Ohio law defined distracted driving as operating a motor vehicle while “using a handheld electronic wireless communications device.” Now, the law has expanded its definition to include “Engaging in activity that is not necessary for the vehicle’s operation and that impairs, or reasonably would be expected to impair, the driver’s ability to drive safely.”
This net-widening definition of distracted driving gives police officers and courts greater discretion when determining whether a driver was distracted when involved in an accident — and whether they can apply that $100 fine. So to help you stay safe and informed, here’s a list of actions that can be considered distracted driving:
- Adjusting your mirrors
- Eating food and drinking beverages
- Attending to pets or children
- Adjusting your climate control, navigation, or infotainment settings
- Checking email
- Watching videos
- Reading books, maps, flyers, and other similar materials
- Texting at a stop light or stop sign
- Rubbernecking at scenes outside of your vehicle
- Grooming tasks, like shaving or applying makeup while driving
- Using a hands-free communication system
This isn’t an exhaustive list — driving distractions come in many forms. Look at it this way — does a task take your hand, eyes, or mind off the road? If so, it’s a distraction.
What are the impacts of distracted driving?
According to the materials in the Distracted Driving Course, every year, around 3,000 motorists in the United States lose their lives to distracted driving, while another 421,000 were injured. That’s because our reaction time is 30 percent worse if you’re trying to text — and worse yet, your chance of a crash increases by 23 percent. That’s because distracted driving leads to erratic behavior, like tailgating, weaving in and out of lanes, crossing into oncoming traffic, or driving at irregular speeds.
Even just a few seconds of distracted driving can have big consequences — when driving at 55 MPH, looking down for just a few seconds will cause you to drive the length of a football field while blind. That’s more than enough time and distance for you to accidentally hit a pedestrian, cyclist, animal, or another vehicle.
Final thoughts on the Distracted Driver Course
You don’t have to be a ticketed offender to take the course — anyone is free to take the tests, read the materials, and watch the videos. However, in order to have the $100 distracted driver fee waived from a moving violation, you have to complete the entire course in a single sitting without closing the browser tab or reloading the page. Furthermore, some parts of the course have a tendency to lock up — and the only fix is reloading the page, which sends you right back to the beginning, even if you were a few clicks away from completion. And although it claims to take one hour, it actually takes much longer.
In other words, the best way to avoid paying the distracted driver fine is to avoid driving while distracted in the first place.
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Source: ODT Schools