Jan 19, 2022 - News

Report: Ohio's lax traffic laws make roadways unsafe

Data: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

Ohio leaders could do a lot more to make driving here safer, recent research shows.

Driving the news: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released its 2022 report of state driving laws yesterday, highlighting 16 "optimal laws that every state should have as part of a comprehensive safety program."

Why it matters: The report outlines not just the issues with Ohio's traffic laws but a specific legislative roadmap for improving them.

What they found: Ohio has just six of the 16 "optimal laws" on the books, among the lowest state totals in the U.S.

  • As an example, law enforcement in most states can pull over a driver solely for not wearing a seat belt.
  • That's not the case in Ohio, where seat belt violations are "secondary offenses" for drivers and front-seat passengers — and aren't required whatsoever for adults in a back seat.

Other suggested changes: Force motorcycle riders to wear helmets, adjust the child restraint and booster seat requirements, increase the minimum age for permit holders to 16 and further restrict teen driving at nighttime hours.

What we're watching: There's widespread support for legislation to strengthen Ohio's distracted driving laws, another major policy recommendation from the report.

Meanwhile, the push for improved safety laws comes amid a spike in Ohio's traffic fatalities in recent years.

By the numbers: There were 1,361 traffic fatalities recorded last year, per data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

  • That's an 11% jump from 2021 and marks the third consecutive year-over-year increase.

Zoom in: That increase is being felt at the local level, we reported in December.

  • Columbus recorded more than three-dozen roadway deaths in 2021, a much bigger number than in previous years.
  • Experts partially blame the pandemic, which has led to an overall increase in risky behaviors — from substance abuse to speeding and not wearing seat belts.
Data: Ohio State Highway Patrol; Chart: Axios Visuals

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Columbus stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more