MEDINA — The county ended 2010 with 20 traffic fatalities, five more than in 2009.
Lt. Joshua Swindell, commander of the Medina post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, said that’s not the only thing that’s concerning to him.
“There is definitely a trend going on. We have a problem with our youthful drivers … not making great decisions, either out of slow response time or driving too aggressively,” Swindell said.
Nine of the 20 people who died in accidents in Medina County this year were considered youthful. Six of them were drivers and three were passengers.
Nine of the 18 traffic accidents with fatalities this year were caused by what the patrol considers “youthful” drivers, or drivers younger than age 25.
Swindell said he believes much of that is caused by young people being distracted by devices like cell phones.
“It’s beginning to be that it’s almost a casual thing to be driving a car,” he said.
He said the patrol regularly talks to young people to remind them about the seriousness of driving.
“We tell them: ‘You’re driving a weapon and you need to show caution, just as if you were driving a loaded weapon,’ ” he said.
He also said the patrol targets school zones for its patrols. That way, students and other young drivers are reminded that driving is a serious responsibility.
“That’s the biggest impact you can make as you’re coming into school and going out of school,” he said. “Hopefully we can get them to focus on their driving when they’re out there and not their cell phones.”
Swindell said the patrol also is focused on nabbing all drivers who don’t wear their seat belts or who drink or use drugs before driving.
“Those continue to be a problem and have not come down,” he said.
Eight of the 20 people killed in fatal accidents this year, or about 40 percent, were not wearing seat belts. Five of the 15 killed last year, or just more than 30 percent, were not wearing seat belts.
The patrol made about the same number of arrests for operating a vehicle while impaired in the last two years: 227 in 2010 and 228 in 2009.
However, there were six OVI-related fatal accidents this year and five last year.
“For some reason, these people keep slipping through and having these bad accidents,” he said.
Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.