By Elise Franco
The collaboration between Mahoning Safe Communities and the Canfield Police Department continues as they kick off a new educational and enforcement campaign: “Stay alive! Don’t TXT and drive.”
Susan Viars, of safe communities, said the state-funded group spreads education and awareness about serious traffic issues such as drinking and driving, seat- belt use and, now, texting while driving.
“We’re doing a big push now with the no-texting law that went into effect in Ohio in August,” she said. “We want to help make sure people are not driving distracted.”
Viars said it’s become difficult for some people, especially teens, to put down their phones while driving because technology has become such an integral part of life.
“I think it’s about the instant gratification of speaking to their friends,” she said, “No text is worth putting a life at risk.”
Scott Weamer, Canfield assistant police chief, said the city of Canfield has had a texting ban on the books for about three years, and it’s used mainly as a preventative measure.
Few tickets have been issued during the city’s ban.
“The value in these laws is that they increase awareness because the reality is, it’s difficult to prove [that] someone’s texting caused an accident unless they admit it,” he said. “We want to be preventative and not reactive because it doesn’t do any good to ticket someone for texting after a fatal accident has happened.”
Weamer said The Mahoning County OVI Task Force, which also works with communities, recently was funded again for the fiscal year 2012-2013.
The task force, made up of 13 local law enforcement entities, works throughout the year to conduct corridor-enforcement blitzes, saturation patrols and sobriety check points.
“I want people to take a moment and think, ‘Where are they going to be?’” Weamer said. “Maybe then they think twice about drunk driving.”
Weamer said the partnership is important regardless of which traffic issue they’re targeting because neither the education nor enforcement aspects would work alone.
“Enforcement by police is always a component, but the goal is changing people’s behavior,” he said. “The real challenge is in that education.”