COLUMBUS, Ohio. (WOWO): Sadly, the drug use epidemic is negatively impacting safety on the roadways, but officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation are taking advantage of the busy holiday travel season to actively spread their important “Start Talking” initiative. The initiative is geared towards warning drivers about the growing problem of drugged driving.
Matt Bruning, Press Secretary for the Ohio Department of Transportation tells WOWO News, the idea is to have everyone working together to build a drug-free future and he says that effort starts at home.
“We know that kids who have those conversations with their parents are about 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t. So the idea here is to start talking about drug abuse so hopefully it will help end drug abuse.”
According to state statistics, Ohio has seen a 25 percent increase in drugged-driving crashes since 2012. In the last year alone, from 2015 to this year, the state has seen a nine percent increase.
“We know this problem is continuing to grow and we would like to turn that around,” says Burning.
And because of the increase of drugged-driving crashes around the Buckeye State, ODOT is taking it one step further by spreading awareness with the state’s 130 freeway message signs, as well as additional portable highway signs. The signs will display driver alerts on the rising number of drugged-driving crashes.
When it comes to the WOWO listening area, Williams County has the highest drugged-driving crashes with 77 reported drugged-driving crashes reported since 2013.
“We know it’s not the most exciting conversation you’ll have at the Thanksgiving table when you gather with family,” says Burning. “But we certainly hope that the conversation about drugged-driving abuse does enter the mix at some point during these family gatherings because again this a problem that’s effecting ever single Ohioan either directly or indirectly.”