April 16, 2014

Intermittent clouds

County’s traffic fatalities down from last year

This map depicts locations of fatal crashes in Medina County in 2011, 2012 and 2013. There were 14 in 2011, nine in 2012 and two in 2013. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Staff and wire reports

Fatal crashes in Ohio hit a record low in 2013, and Medina County followed that trend, according to preliminary numbers released Wednesday by the Ohio Highway Patrol.

The patrol counted two fatal crashes in 2013 in Medina County — compared with nine in 2012.

Statewide, at least 923 people died on Ohio roads during the past year, and additional deaths are under review but have not been confirmed as traffic deaths, making the possible total 981, according to patrol data.

It would be the first time Ohio has had fewer than 1,000 traffic deaths since record-keeping began in 1936.

The previous low was 1,016 in 2011, according to the patrol’s revised statistics. In 2012, Ohio had 1,122 deaths.

Lt. Bill Haymaker, commander of the patrol’s Medina post, attributed the decrease to cooperation among law enforcement.

“The main thing is that it’s a great cooperative effort between all the law enforcement agencies in the county on enforcing seat-belt violations, removing impaired drivers and educational messages,” he said.

Law enforcement also had much more drunken driving checkpoints in Medina County— 12 in 2013 compared to about three in 2012, Haymaker said.

The patrol strived to get the number of deaths below 1,000, said the patrol’s superintendent, Col. Paul Pride. But reaching that benchmark is couched in the reality that so many lives still were lost, he said.

“That’s all well and good, unless you’re the family of one of those folks that perished on our roadways, and it’s not so good of a year for you. And we recognize that,” Pride said.

Starting in the late 1960s, Ohio logged at least 2,500 traffic deaths for five consecutive years, with a record high of more than 2,770 in 1969. Since then, many factors have contributed to decreasing that number and improving road safety, Pride said. Among them: better emergency medical care, improved engineering of vehicles and roads, and law enforcement and educational efforts by various agencies.

This year, the patrol partly credits an increased focus on high-traffic metropolitan areas that tend to have more crash deaths than others. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, had 18 fewer traffic fatalities in 2013 than the previous year, and the total for Franklin County, which includes Columbus, dropped by 11, according to preliminary counts earlier this week.

The patrol also points to seat-belt use and driver impairment as key factors affecting the number of deaths. The number of alcohol-related crash deaths decreased significantly in 2013, as did the number of people who died who were not wearing seatbelts, Pride said.

The vast majority of deadly crashes involve single fatalities. In a rare occurrence this year, Ohio had two crashes that each killed six people.

A March 10 crash in Warren killed the 19-year-old driver of a speeding SUV and five of the seven teenagers riding with her. In mid-October, a man, his wife and their four daughters died when a police cruiser responding to a robbery report struck their car at an intersection near Columbus.