Ohio on pace for new low in traffic deathsWritten by Associated Press | | email@example.com
Ohio has seen a sharp drop in traffic accident deaths this year, in part because of stepped up highway enforcement in big cities and a drop in summer driving due to high gas prices, the State Highway Patrol said.
Car crashes killed 1,080 motorists in Ohio through Wednesday, and the state is on track for a record yearly low in 2008, said patrol spokesman Sgt. Darren Blosser. The previous low mark was 1,239 deaths in 2006.
“Motorists can breathe a little easier,” said AAA spokesman Brian Newbacher.
Ohio’s reduction of about 13 percent exceeded the national average of about nine percent, said Col. Richard Collins, the patrol superintendent.
Other factors included air bags, driver education programs and advancements in trauma care, such as medical helicopters quickly reaching crash scenes, Collins said.
Alcohol-related traffic deaths also fell – down 10 percent in 2008 from 280 fatalities last year. Troopers arrested more than 24,000 drivers who had been drinking this year, Collins said.
“Alcohol continues to be a problem,” Collins said. “It will still be a big focus.”
Seat belt campaigns also helped in Ohio in 2008, and a state law set to take effect in March requiring children younger than eight to ride inside booster seats will reduce deaths even further, Newbacher said.
Ohio had been one of just seven states that didn’t require booster seats for children older than three. Seat belts that don’t fit young children properly can do extensive damage in accidents, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The patrol’s fatal crash figures in Ohio date back to 1933. The worst year for traffic deaths was 1969, when 2,778 motorists died.
The patrol’s partnership with police in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo in accident-prone areas had a huge impact, Collins said.
For example, troopers on special details on interstate highways in northeast Ohio issued more than 6,000 tickets for speeding and arrested 525 people for drugs in 2007 and 2008. The sweeps likely had the residual effect of causing drivers to regularly reduce their speeds in those areas, Collins said.