Catherine Ubry, For The Miami Student

AAA is launching a new campaign aiming to end distracted driving and texting while driving throughout Butler County.

Kimberly Schwind, Public Relations Manager of AAA Ohio Auto Club, said, “AAA, in addition to being 24/7 roadside assistance, is North America’s largest leisure travel organization and strives to be motorists’ most trusted advocated in regards to travel safety.”

Schwind also explained the placement of the ads.

“The first billboards are in Butler County, mainly because AAA already has many billboards in that area, so we decided to start there,” Schwind said. “We’ve been trying to end texting while driving for years. We’ve been trying to get bills passed statewide to ban texting while driving. Several communities around Ohio have already taken these bans upon themselves to implement.”

Schwind said that the issue of texting while driving and distracted driving has been an ongoing issue for years. After looking at trends in the cell phone industry, AAA noted that texting is certainly growing in popularity, along with texting behind the wheel, part of what prompted the campaign.

“Distracted driving is the cause of one-fourth of all traffic crashes,” Schwind said.

Ohio House Bill 99, which would ban texting while driving in Ohio, was passed last June in the Ohio House of Representatives.

The bill is now in the Ohio Senate Highways and Transportation Committee and although hearings for the bill have been held, the bill is not moving forward right now, according to Schwind.

“There has been no movement with the bill recently,” Schwind said. “We will continue to monitor this bill and lobby. We believe that in order to change driver behavior though, we also need an education campaign.”

AAA has taken on the responsibility of creating and distributing the “Text-free driver Pledge” where drivers promise to drive safely without texting.

The pledge is brought to different events and even was recently distributed to Talawanda High School in order to involve students with the new campaign. More than 3,100 drivers have signed the pledge since it began in July, according to Schwind.

The campaign will be made up of more than billboards. Several 15-second public service announcements will also be heard on the radio throughout Ohio, urging drivers to drive without distractions such as texting, according to Schwind.

Schwind said one billboard reads, “SIRSLY, DNT TXT AND DRV,” and the second reads, “Enough about me, eyes on the road.”

“I went to Miami [University] as well and I know that there are a lot of country roads in that area,” Schwind said. “There’s not a lot of room for error on those roads and drivers really must pay attention. I think it’s great that these billboards are going up around [state] route 27. I was told that the first one was up on Monday, February 20.”

Butler County Deputy Terry McClanahan believes that the new campaigns will be a positive addition to Butler County.

“Texting while driving is so dangerous in that it causes the driver to become so distracted,” McClanahan said. “People just look down and then forget to look up and it is definitely a safety issue.”

McClanahan does not believe that it will be too long until the no texting rule becomes a statewide ban.

“Truck drivers aren’t allowed to text and drive, but as of now nobody can be stopped specifically for texting while driving,” McClanahan said “It is not banned statewide yet but I don’t think it will be too long until it is.”

Sophomore Dave Gatterdam agrees that areas around Butler County, including Miami, are especially dangerous and texting while driving only adds to distractions.

“Texting and driving is so dangerous around Oxford, especially at night,” Gatterdam said. “The country roads aren’t lit well and deer can run across at any moment. Uptown Oxford is dangerous to drive through while texting as well because of the people crossing the streets constantly. It’s definitely a safety issue.”