Fatal crashes could reach a record low in Medina County and across Ohio this year. There have been only two people killed on Medina County roadways so far this year, compared to nine fatalities in 2012 and 14 crashes in 2011 that killed 16 people, according to the Medina post of the Ohio Highway Patrol.
The county set a record last year, when nine people died. That was the lowest number of traffic deaths since 1973, which is the earliest year records readily were available from the Medina post of the patrol.
The decline in highway deaths is a statewide trend.
As of Nov. 8, there were 818 traffic deaths recorded statewide. Those numbers don’t include an estimated 19 more deaths investigated by local police agencies not yet officially reported to the patrol.
If this year’s death toll comes in under 1,000 — which experts say is likely with less than eight weeks left in 2013 — it would be a first since the state began keeping records in 1936.
Ohio’ record low of 1,016 deaths was set in 2011. Last year there were 1,123 deaths.
The record for the most deaths in the state was set in 1969, when crashes claimed the lives of 2,778 people.
This year, the Medina death count is the lowest in the region. Lorain County has recorded 11 fatal crashes, Summit has seen 20, Ashland has had six and Wayne County, nine deaths.
Only four of Ohio’s 88 counties have a lower fatality count — Coshocton, Wyandot and Hocking counties each have reported one fatal crash so far this year and Putnam County has had none.
Nationwide, traffic deaths also are on the decline.
In 2012, the U.S. recorded 32,479 roadway deaths — the fewest since 1949.
Last year’s toll rose to 33,561 — a 3 percent increase from 2011 but still historically low.
Nationwide, the drop has been attributed to better traffic enforcement and improved safety features on vehicles.
Lt. William Haymaker, commander of the patrol’s Medina post, credited aggressive traffic enforcement and cooperation from each agency in Medina County in reducing fatalities locally.
“I really think the reason we have the low number is the cooperation between law enforcement agencies in this county. Everyone does their part to enforce traffic laws,” he said.
As an example, Haymaker said motorists driving on state Route 18 may pass through several different municipalities, but the state troopers, township police and city officers they encounter all will be on the same page when it comes to enforcement.
“In some counties, you have some municipalities that just don’t do much to enforce traffic offenses, but that’s not the case here,” Haymaker said.
The Medina Safe Communities program also has allowed local law enforcement to collaborate on targeted countywide enforcement of drinking and driving offenses, said Brunswick police Lt. Brian Ohlin, who serves as commander of the county’s OVI Task Force. The program also focuses on safe-driving education and preventing drunken driving.
“The key effort of each safety-belt usage or alcohol campaign is to keep awareness, education and enforcement high within our communities to prevent fatal crashes in Medina County,” he said in a statement.
Haymaker said seat-belt usage will continue to play a major role in reducing fatalities.
“From 2010 to 2012, more than half of the people killed on Ohio’s roadways were not wearing a safety belt,” he said. “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 340 lives were saved in Ohio and 11,949 were saved nationwide in 2011 as a direct result of motorists buckling up. Using a safety belt remains the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.”
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.