A freak accident Wednesday on Interstate 90 near Avon bolstered statistics revealing that Ohio roads are more dangerous than in recent years. Two vehicles collided near a construction zone. A Jeep Liberty veered into a construction worker. He reportedly had a leg amputated by the ferocity of the crash. He died en route to the hospital. ODOT had not reduced the speed limit through the construction zone as is standard practice with such zones. It was still 65 MPH. The accident remains under investigation.
The tragedy coincided with an Associated Press report released Wednesday declaring that Ohio is more dangerous for motorists this year than last.
In 2011 the state recorded its lowest total for traffic deaths in 76 years. So far this year, nearly 800 people have died in crashes across the state - that's a 16-percent increase over the same stretch last year. It's also a higher number than 2009 or 2010.
According to the report, the reasons are hard to pin down. Ohio isn't the only state to see increased deaths. Patrol spokeswoman Lt. Anne Ralston said traffic-crash deaths are also up nationally this year. The Columbus Dispatch reports that despite the increase in fatalities this year, state troopers have made more drunken-driving arrests, ticketed more drivers and cited more people for not wearing seat belts.
So far this year, Columbiana County has had eight traffic fatalities and Mahoning County 14. Totals for 2011 were 12 and 25, respectively. During 2010, our county had only seven fatalities and Mahoning County 19.
One death is too many. Regardless of whether it involves a driver, passenger, or in the sad instance in Avon, a construction worker in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Pro-active state troopers are busy doing their jobs. And doing it well. As are our local enforcement officers. The recent texting law that went into effect should help. However, the reality is that many will continue to use hand-held devices. Just as many continue to break other traffic laws. But the message of safety and vigilance on our roadways must be driven home to all of us. A spike in traffic fatalities is alarming. It should force each and everyone of us who sits behind a wheel or rides along in a vehicle to take more than a passing notice in that disturbing upward trend.
The least anyone in a vehicle can do is buckle up. How hard is that? According to the Ohio Highway Patrol, in 2011, nearly 65 percent of the people killed on Ohio's roadways were not wearing a safety belt. During the first eight months of 2012, safety belt citations by Ohio troopers are up 16 percent compared to the same time period last year.
"We are reminded every day that far too many people are still failing to buckle-up," said Colonel John Born, Patrol superintendent. "It is the easiest thing you can do to protect yourself, your family and your friends."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, safety belts save over 13,000 lives every year and remain the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.
According to Ohio's 2011 Observational Seatbelt Survey, 84.12 percent of motorists were found to be in compliance with Ohio's safety belt law. This is a significant increase from the 72.9 percent observed in 2002. While these rates have steadily increased, far too many Ohioans still do not buckle-up. And again, what good, valid, acceptable - name it what you want -reason would there be for not doing so?