Move Over and Save Lives

Sometimes, I feel like driving on the interstate has become like driving in a war zone with hidden landmines. For instance, there are distracted drivers everywhere, occasional reports of people behind the wheel overdosing on heroin and driverless trucks becoming a part of our future. Some think driverless trucks are a good thing, eliminating the human fatigue factor that is a dilemma for drivers making a long haul. Of course, other folks are terrified this unproven technology might be even more dangerous than current conditions.

But back to distracted driving, which has increased dramatically due to cellphone activities such as talking, texting, sending emails, checking social media accounts, etc. Distracted drivers might be one significant reason why our state’s “Move Over Law,” pertaining to interstates and state highways, was expanded in 2013.

“Ohio’s Move Over Law… requires all drivers to move over one lane passing by any vehicle with flashing or rotating lights parked on the roadside,” according to the Ohio Department of Transportation website.

“The original law took effect in 1999 to reduce risk to law-enforcement officers and emergency responders. It was expanded in December 2013 to apply to every stationary vehicle with flashing lights, including road construction, maintenance and utility crews.”

Of course, sometimes it’s not safe to move over on a two-lane highway, and the Move Over law has that covered. Also, in instances where traffic or weather prohibit safely moving to the other lane, “In those situations, slow down and proceed with caution,” advises the ODOT website.

Sadly, nationwide, one law enforcement officer and 23 highway workers are killed each month, and a tow truck driver loses his life every six days in a roadside accident, reports the same website. Yet there continues to be some confusion about the law, as many well-meaning citizens believe that moving over is simply a common courtesy and not an actual state law. Other individuals are negligent distracted drivers who are not paying attention and recklessly endangering the lives of others. 

Tragically, in June, Matthew Mazany, a Mentor police officer, was hit and killed on Route 2 during a traffic stop. North Coast Emergency Services co-owner, John Leonello, knew Mazany through his company’s work providing roadside assistance in the area.

“Leonello believes more awareness of the (Move Over) law in the form of a public service campaign is needed, and (believes) it needs to be taught more consistently in drivers education classes,” reported Cleveland’s ABC News Channel 5’s Joe Pagonakis. Prompted by Officer Mazany’s death, Leonello and his business partner Chris Haire, told News 5’s Pagonakis, they believe the state needs to “launch a stronger public awareness campaign similar to the ‘Click It or Ticket’ public service announcements on television, radio and online” to prevent the deaths of law enforcement personnel and other roadside workers. Haire told News 5’s Pagonakis, “… more awareness is needed and (Haire) said distracted driving is another major cause of roadside fatalities.”

The Ohio State Highway Patrol did try to do something to enlighten motorists about the Move Over Law during the week of July 22-28 through an “Enforcement and Awareness campaign” by issuing 586 citations to drivers. Ignorance of the law is not a defense, and drivers might be surprised by the weighty consequences this law can possibly carry.

The ODOT website explains, “… the issue is so serious that fines are doubled. Violators are fined (up to) 2 x $150 for the first violation (a minor misdemeanor), 2 x $250 for the same violation within a year of the first, and 2 x $500 for more than two violations in a year.” Jail time can also be possible for drivers who have had prior traffic offenses.

The majority of states do have some type of Move Over Law, and many also have signage enabling drivers to realize that moving over is not a courtesy or a suggestion but a state law. For instance, Tennessee has signs that read, “State Law – Move Over For Stopped Emergency Vehicles.”

So, maybe in Ohio, we can do a little better by updating some of our current signs that say, “Move Over For Stopped Vehicles with Flashing Lights” by adding, “Move Over: It’s state law.”

Maybe, too, some of the revenue from all those Move Over tickets this past July could be used for billboards and a public service campaign letting folks know that moving over whenever possible is the law, a law that could save lots of precious lives!

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Her fall 2018 book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is available through all major online booksellers. 

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The Danger of Distracted Driving

Highway at nightI recognized the small truck right away. The logo on the vehicle’s door represented a local company that I respected. One that I had done business with in the past. Driving next to the pick-up on a two lane highway outside of town, we were stopped by a red light in adjacent lanes. The sun had set over an hour earlier. Even though it was dark, the light from a cellphone clasped in the hands of a young female driver illuminated the truck’s cab. Her long hair obscured most of her face, because she was glancing down glued to her cellphone screen instead of the road in front of her. Not only that, but when the light turned green, mesmerized by a text or Facebook post, she didn’t move.

After driving about a half mile down the 50 mph highway, I looked in my rearview mirror concerned that she would get hit from behind. The mother in me frantically wanted to warn her to start moving. Thankfully, she finally did. At the next red light, it happened all over again. The distracted girl remained oblivious to her surroundings engrossed in the phone. A second time the truck sat still when the light turned green. This time when I glanced back, the mother in me wanted to take her car keys away.

As a nation, we are justifiably concerned over the possibility of another terrorist attack. Yet in all probability, it’s a driver more interested in their iPhone than safe driving practices that could contribute to our demise. A September Wall Street Journal article reported that traffic fatalities surged 14% (NSC statistics) in the first half of 2015 blamed on more drivers, cheaper gas, catastrophic weather, etc. But famed Berkshire-Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet says that he believes distracted driving could be an “overlooked contributor.”

In reality, we have no idea how many auto collisions occur annually due to our addiction to our phones, especially with the invention of the Smartphone. According to a USA Today article last year, “Cellphone use causes one in four car accidents” by Gabrielle Kratsas. “The [2014 edition] of National Safety Council’s annual injury and fatality report, “Injury Facts,” found that the use of cellphones… [caused] 26% of the nation’s car accidents, a modest increase from the previous year.”Directions

Although this report doesn’t include all the incidents where drivers did not divulge that they were on their phones. For example, can you imagine anyone reporting, “I was on my cellphone not paying any attention when I plowed into your vehicle.” Nor did “Injury Facts” name texting as the primary culprit, since in 95% of the cases investigated, drivers were using hand-held or hand-free cellphones.

Fourteen states currently ban hand-held cellphone use while driving, but Ohio is not one. If we are honest, most of us have difficulty doing more than one task at a time. Especially, when that task involves use of a cellphone while travelling 70 plus miles an hour on the interstate. It’s not just at high rates of speed either. How many times have you been stopped at a red light when you observe a preoccupied motorist like the girl in the company truck? It’s even more frightening to be moving along and spot another driver’s neck in the downward dog yoga position fixated on their phone.

End of Road signNot long ago, driving a car was a privilege that came with weighty societal responsibility. Today, young drivers are at increased risk due to their lack of experience. The CDC reports that “they have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.” But older drivers are guilty too. Distracted driving includes: cellphone use, texting, applying makeup, programming a GPS, eating, arguing with a passenger, etc. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that, “In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver…an additional 424,000 people were injured.” If you’ve ever fought your way back to health following a serious wreck, you realize that those numbers represent countless individuals whose lives have been severely impacted by someone else’s possibly careless behavior.

We all want to use our Smartphones, so many of us are contributing unnecessarily to the problem by looking the other way. There are Ohio laws against texting, but the National Safety Council advises folks who want to be part of the solution to “Support Cellphone distracted driving legislation… for bills banning cell phone use-handheld and [even] hands-free-while driving.” This might seem a little drastic, but what would be a good solution to stop distracted driving?

Christina DrivingChristina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. 

 

 

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An Obituary’s Message to Call your Mother

Mom, This one's for you!

Mom, This one’s for you!

Earlier this year, my local daily newspaper changed the placement of the obituaries moving them to page two. I’ve often wondered how many other newspaper readers are like me, keenly interested in the obituaries. I also question how my gradual transition from reading the comics as a teenager to devouring the death notices as a boomer occurred. Once, an elderly relative humorously confided that he read the obituaries right away to make sure he wasn’t among those listed. Of course, in case you miss one, you can simply go online and Google the person’s name and date of death. Often you can even post condolences to the family or send flowers if you like. Facebook can be another great way to be alerted to the passing of a friend or former co-worker when someone posts their obituary online. Living in a society that is in a constant state of flux geographically necessitates that we stay in touch electronically.

But what’s so important about an obituary anyway? In explanation, caring about people makes you realize what a vital part that death plays in the game of life. Commemorating those who have gone before us is an integral rite of passage, and being there for those left behind is of paramount importance. Yet, to be there, you have to be informed, thus the relevance of the obituary.

An obituary can tell you a lot about a deceased individual, even when you think you already know them. Then there are times, when you aren’t acquainted, but you are startled by the details of their death and human curiosity and compassion kick in. For instance, when someone young dies, even when they are a total stranger, most people probably lament this untimely passing in a deeper way. We sympathize, because the death of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare, and your heart aches for those suffering this loss.CassieCasket

There is death by suicide, too. An obituary doesn’t usually reveal this heartbreaking detail. However, sometimes you can read between the lines to decipher that for some reason an individual could no longer bear to be part of this world. Other tragic deaths include accidents caused by alcohol consumption or those drug-related, of which there are far too many lately. As with a violent murder, the facts are frequently disclosed in a related news story. Another heart grabber is when several members of a family die together.

No one is spared the pain of burying loved ones, that’s why it’s necessary to be there for those left behind. I learned this valuable lesson in my youth, when a teenage friend committed suicide, and I failed her dear mother who was like a second mother to me. In the midst of this crisis, I disappeared. I didn’t visit the funeral home or call, because I was terrified of dealing with death. It wasn’t death itself that frightened me, rather the fear of saying or doing something wrong, or of not being strong. My misconception was that I wouldn’t be missed, but I was.

Growing up through my own funeral home tour of duty I have come to realize that you remember the faces there, and you are acutely aware of the absence of those who don’t come. It’s a defining moment like serious illness, when you realize who your true friends are. After all, the Bible says we should, “…mourn with those who mourn.” When I do pay my last respects now, I no longer feel overwhelmed by the need to have eloquent words of comfort. I simply say how very sorry I am, and offer a hug, remembering how grateful I have been for those consoling embraces in days past.

I wish I could give Robert Downey Jr., my condolences and a big hug. Sadly, the famous actor lost his 80-year-old mother on Sept. 22, 2014. A few days later, he courageously posted a beautiful obituary that he had written about her on his official Facebook page. He candidly included that his mom’s broken career dreams were caused by alcoholism, something she successfully overcame. He even credits a 2004 phone call from her as the catalyst for his own sobriety today.

Obituaries like Downey Jr.s’ are a startling reminder to the living to appreciate our tragically flawed loved ones. He closes it with the poignant words, “If anyone out there has a mother, and she is not perfect, please call her and say you love her anyway…”

Oh, how I wish I could, but the only obituary I’ve ever written was my mother’s. Still, maybe it’s not too late for you to take the actor’s wise advice and call yours.

Robert Downey Jr.s Mom

 

Click on the photo of Robert Downey Jr.s’ mother, Elsie, to read his touching obituary.

 

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