Late last month the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the state's traffic safety partners released some good news - traffic deaths on the state's highways last year were at an all-time low.
In 2009, 1,028 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes on state highways- a 14 percent decline from the previous year.
The number of motor vehicle fatal crashes decreased to 952 in 2009, as compared with 1,099 fatal crashes in 2008. Motorcycle fatalities and fatal crashes also declined, with 163 deaths reported (down from 213 in 2008) and 158 fatal motorcycle crashes (down from 212 in 2008).
The number of alcohol-involved fatal motor vehicle crashes declined by nearly 25 percent in 2009, with 320 reported statewide (down from 422 in 2008).
Despite this good news, our state is still lagging behind much of the rest of the country in trying to prevent the cause of many other fatal accidents - texting or using hand-held cell phones while operating a motor vehicle.
Although several studies have shown that texting while driving can be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated, the state of Ohio does not have a statewide cell-phone ban or hands-free driving law. Nor is there a statewide ban on texting while driving. However, Ohio does allow localities to create their own laws regarding driving and cell-phone use.
Three localities in the state have created their own laws dealing with cellular phone use and driving. Brooklyn, North Olmstead and Walton Hills all have specific ordinances in place that make it illegal to talk on a cell-phone while driving.
Several different bills have been introduced in the state legislature, but none have made much progress. If you're truly concerned about highway safety, let your legislator know you believe Ohio needs both a ban on texting and talking on hand-held cell phones while driving. If we get those, perhaps we'll have another year of historically low highway fatalities next year.