COLUMBUS — Roads across Ohio are crowded with holiday travelers. Unfortunately, that also means an uptick in traffic crashes.
“As we launch into one of the busiest travel times of the year, the way we drive over these next twelve days will impact how many people are home for the holidays or how many people ring in the new year,” said Gov. Mike DeWine.
To promote safe driving, the Ohio Department of Transportation will display several messages aimed at some of the top factors in serious or deadly crashes.
“The vast majority of traffic deaths in Ohio are completely preventable,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “While we engineer roads to be as safe as possible, the one thing we cannot control is driver behavior. We’re urging drivers to put down the phone, buckle up, drive sober, and obey the speed limit.”
Beginning in July 2015, ODOT began using more than 130 digital message boards to display safety messages and relevant statistics. These messages are only run when other important traffic, weather, or emergency messages are not being displayed.
Messages will begin this weekend with a focus on distracted driving. Monday’s message mentions the 260,357 crashes recorded in the state so far this year and reminds drivers that life is “fra-gee-lay,” a reference to the popular holiday movie “A Christmas Story.” On Christmas Eve, drivers will be reminded to stay to the right unless passing slower traffic because “Santa needs the left lane tonight.” Driving slow in the left lane is a common trigger for road rage and aggressive driving behaviors that can lead to crashes. Christmas Day travelers will see a message targeted at impaired driving based on the 1989 movie “Christmas Vacation.”
“While the subject is very serious, we have found that the public responds better to messages that are humorous or relate to pop-culture,” said Marchbanks.
A survey conducted by the Federal Highway Administration found that more than half of all respondents indicated that seeing safety campaign messages on digital message boards in the past had caused them to change their driving.
So far this year, 1,119 people have been killed on Ohio roads, an 8 percent increase over last year. This year, traffic deaths had been trending down until August. November has been the deadliest month of the year with an increase of 34 traffic deaths compared to 2018.