OH traffic deaths jump 17% in 2015

OH traffic deaths jump 17% in 2015

Traffic fatalities are on the rise nationwide and the National Safety Council says distracted drivers could be the main reason.

According to the NSC, traffic deaths in the United States are up 14 percent through the first six months of 2015, when compared to the same time last year. In Ohio, the number is even higher at 17 percent, for a total of 499 deaths in the first six months of the year.

The organization gives a host of reasons and many have to do with the economy continuing to improve. With gas prices and unemployment down, more people are driving. Add that to distracted driving, like texting and talking on cell phones, and roughly 19,000 people in the U.S. have already died in traffic crashes this year.

We sent 19 Action News Reporter Dan DeRoos out to do a little experiment. At the intersection of East 9th and Chester, one of the busiest in downtown Cleveland, DeRoos stood for a half-hour to see how many drivers he could catch on their cell phones.
He started at 11:05 a.m. and within seconds found a driver using his phone. 

To his surprise, it wasn't as prevalent as he thought it would be. But a minute later, he saw another guilty driver. He says the surprise was finding cab drivers on the phone, and not using hands-free Bluetooth.

In Cleveland, it is against the law to be using the phone, but because it is a secondary offense, you cannot be pulled over for it. You would only be ticketed for doing something else illegal while on your phone.

At the end of the 30-minute trial, DeRoos tallied 31 drivers using their cell phones -- with two being cab drivers.

"I wish people would pay attention, because people are crossing the street, they're changing lanes. People just don't pay attention anymore. Used to be the radio or women putting on makeup, and now people are texting," one woman told DeRoos after seeing the tally.

"Unbelievable," one man said. "It's getting worse not better. That's for sure."
Then there's Jennifer Wherley, who told us she has been hit three separate times by distracted drivers.
"I had three teenagers who were texting while driving, who totaled my cars," Wherley explained.

The NSC says more than 2.2 million have been seriously injured from January to June of this year, putting the country on pace for its deadliest driving year since 2007. Read the NSC's full report here.

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