Safety leaders: Ohio traffic fatalities could hit all-time low

Greg Sowinski 419-993-2090 •

December 18, 2013

LIMA — The two top safety officials in the state would probably offer to try to hold their breath for the rest of the year if it meant Ohio would see fewer than 1,000 traffic fatalities this year for the first time.

But both men, Director John Born of the Ohio Department of Public Safety and Col. Paul Pride with the Ohio State Highway Patrol are hoping the people of the state will do the heavy lifting.

As of Wednesday, there were 947 fatalities this year in the state. Ohio has not been under 1,000 since the early days of automobile use when the state began tracking data in 1936, Born and Pride said.

“We have 12 days left in the year, and we have a real opportunity to be under 1,000 for the first time in Ohio history,” Born said.

One third of the fatalities are alcohol related, Born said.

Born is urging drivers, as well as others, to not drink and drive, not text and drive, be careful while driving, and report unsafe drivers by calling #677.

Traffic fatalities are down considerably from 45 years ago when in 1969, for example, Ohio recorded 2,780 fatalities, Pride said.

The big decline is credited to four main reasons, Pride said. Enforcement, education, advancements in emergency care, and engineering with both safer cars and safer highway systems.

Seat belts that were placed in cars in 1966 have had a tremendous effect in saving lives, they said.

Alcohol and excessive speed, however, remain leading factors in causing crashes, they said.

Other efforts the state patrol and others are working to improve include criminal enforcement. Troopers are better trained to recognize drug transporters today.

In the past, a trooper may pull someone over for speeding and not recognize signs the person is transporting drugs, sometimes large amounts, Born said.

The patrol has given all its troopers extensive training in recognizing criminals on the roadways, Born said.

State troopers make about 1.2 million enforcement contacts annually. Those contacts can be used to look for illegal activity as well as educate people on safe driving, Pride said.

The patrol also has challenged its troopers to take it personally to try to prevent fatalities. Each trooper has been told the life he or she saves through enforcement could be one of their family members, Pride said.

Troopers also continue to work hard to combat human trafficking. There are rings that prostitute children as young as 12 using drug addiction or the threat of violence to keep them under control, Born said.

When asked about the effect of the increase in the speed limit to 70 mph, both men said it's too early to tell. They said it usually takes about two years to determine what effect it has had.

When asked about efforts to curb texting and driving, Born predicts the best results will happen through education and technology that prevents texting while a car is moving.