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Ohio Traffic Safety Laws Need Improvement: Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about a nationwide report released earlier this year. The non-profit group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety ranked states by how many of 16 safety-critical traffic laws that they had adopted.

With just five of the 16 laws implemented, Ohio ranked among the 11 states at the bottom of the list. Today’s post will discuss the final three categories of laws: teen driving (and graduated driver licensing programs), impaired driving and distracted driving.

Training and Graduated Licensing for Teen Drivers

Graduated driver licensing is a series of restrictions that are removed as new drivers gain age and experience. Here are the six criteria for ideal graduated driver licensing programs:

  • Minimum age of 16 for a learner’s permit (Ohio teens are eligible at 15.5 years)
  • Six-month wait between permit and license (Ohio has this)
  • Fifty hours of supervised driving practice (Ohio has this)
  • Restrictions on nighttime driving (Ohio has some, but they are not strong enough)
  • Restrictions on number/age of passengers (Ohio has these)
  • GDL requirements for novice drivers who start at around age 18 (only 2 states have this, and neither one is Ohio)

As you can see, Ohio meets three out of the six GDL requirements. Areas of recommended improvement include pushing the minimum permit age up to 16 and increasing enforcement on the nighttime driving ban for teen drivers.

Impaired Driving Laws

The three criteria for this category include:

  • Requiring ignition interlocks for anyone convicted of drunk driving
  • Child endangerment: enhanced penalties or additional charges for those who drive drunk with kids in the car
  • Strict open-container laws for alcoholic beverages

According to the report, 32 states have laws requiring even first-time drunk driving offenders to install ignition interlock devices. Ohio does not require this.

We did meet the criteria for child endangerment laws. And while there are some restrictions on open containers in Ohio, they are not strong enough to earn credit in the report.

Laws Against Distracted Driving

The two criteria in this category include:

  • A primary enforcement ban on texting while driving for all drivers
  • A ban on cellphone use for teenagers in a GDL program

Ohio does have a GDL cellphone use ban. And although state law does ban all drivers from texting behind the wheel, it is a secondary offense, meaning that drivers can only be cited for it if they were pulled over for a different reason.

Final Thoughts

There are important safety and economic reasons for Ohio to enact tougher bans on dangerous driving behaviors. Over a 10-year period, we lost 10,847 lives to car accidents in Ohio. And motor vehicle crashes result in more than $10 billion in economic costs each year.

Regardless of the laws, each driver owes a duty of care to all others on the road. If you were severely injured by a negligent driver in Ohio, please contact our firm to discuss your legal options.