WESTFIELD TWP. — Traffic crashes are down in Medina County and law enforcement officers from 11 police departments gathered to honor the top enforcement officers at the Medina Safe Communities annual breakfast.
“We have really great, outstanding outcomes to report this year,” Jerry Klue, who administers the countywide Safe Communities program, said at the event Friday.
Klue said the program began about 18 years ago when members of all the police departments in the county joined together to work on reducing traffic fatalities and step up enforcement of traffic offenses.
“It represents 18 years of partnerships that have been continually built,” Klue said.
So far in 2013, the county has seen only one fatal crash, compared to seven in 2012, 14 in 2011 and 18 in 2010. Overall, crashes are down 25 percent in 2013 compared to 2012.
The awards breakfast keynote speaker was county Probate and Juvenile Judge Kevin Dunn.
Dunn congratulated the officers on their success in reducing fatalities, but warned about the trends he’s seeing in juvenile court, including drug abuse and reckless and distracted driving.
“Teens are involved in three times as many fatal crashes than all other age groups combined,” Dunn said.
Dunn said an increasing number of teens are using cell phones while driving, often calling and responding to messages from their parents.
“These ‘helicopter parents’ are calling their kids and the kids feel like they have to answer,” Dunn said, waving his smartphone around. “I expect to see more of this in the future.”
Dunn said he sees many cases involving teens whose parents confess they never spent the 50 hours required by state law in the car with their teen before the teen applies for a license.
“They just sign off on it,” he said.
Dunn encouraged officers not to be discouraged.
He talked about a traffic stop made earlier this month by a Montville Township officer who suspected four teens were using marijuana. Though he didn’t have enough evidence to charge them, he called their parents down to the stop to let them know what his investigation revealed.
“This lack of parental involvement continues to be an issue,” he said. “… but you have to continue to fight the good fight.”
Ohio Rep. Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, also spoke to the officers and congratulated them for keep traffic crashes rates low. He said the House budget he and other Republicans helped pass increased funding for OVI enforcement by 42 percent and increased the highway patrol budget by 3.8 percent.
“You are the front line that faces these problems,” Batchelder said. “We have tremendous respect for the mission you carry out.”
The Medina Safe Communities program received grant money last year to start an OVI task force, with the additional money, officers around the county were able to conduct 17 sobriety checkpoints since Oct. 1, 2012, said Lt. Brian Ohlin, of Brunswick, who oversees the task force. The safe communities program had conducted checkpoints before, but with the additional grant money, they can conduct more stops throughout the year.
“Now that we’ve gotten grant money, we can kick it up a notch,” Ohlin said. “Starting Oct. 1, we’ll be out again using those funds.”
At the end of the breakfast, Lt. William Haymaker, commander of the Medina post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, broke down this year’s crash statistics.
In addition to overall crashes being down 25 percent, injury crashes are down 34 percent, alcohol-related crashes are down 19 percent and youth crashes are down 35 percent, compared to the end of September 2012.
Haymaker said he pulled older fatal crash records, and found there were 38 fatal crashes in Medina County in 1979. He said the officers in each community have worked to lower that rate and keep low by getting unsafe drivers off the roadway.
“We’ve come a long way since then,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of low numbers these last few years.”
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.