COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The number of traffic deaths around Ohio increased for the second year in a row, according to the State Highway Patrol.
The state had at least 1,057 confirmed traffic fatalities in 2015, up from revised totals of 1,008 for 2014 and 990 for 2013, the lowest on record since the record-keeping started in the 1930s.
At least 42 more deaths from the past year are under review but not yet confirmed as traffic fatalities, according to the patrol’s preliminary statistics tallied before New Year’s Eve.
“Obviously there’s concern about the fact that the numbers are trending back up,” said Lt. Craig Cvetan, a patrol spokesman.
Roughly 60 percent of fatal crashes in Ohio in 2015 involved someone not wearing a seat belt, Cvetan said, and about one-third involved a driver impaired by alcohol or drugs. The numbers of fatal crashes involving motorcycles, commercial vehicles and pedestrians each increased compared with 2014, he said.
Individual patrol posts monitor the statistics and conduct targeted educational and enforcement efforts that vary from place to place based on the problems they’re seeing most, the layout of roads in those areas and the local demographics, Cvetan said. For example, a post that notices an uptick in impaired driving crashes within a busier city area might work with the local police department to increase patrolling there.
“We’re not trying to present one blanket fix-all,” Cvetan said.
Officials did try to draw attention to traffic safety statewide by displaying the running total of crash deaths, with various slogans such as “Drive sober or get pulled over,” on digital message boards along highways during the second half of the year.
The signs garnered both positive and negative feedback, Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Bruning said, noting that people occasionally complained the boards are distracting. Others expressed appreciation. Bruning said one Columbus man wrote to the department to say the somber messages led him to a realization: “I never really knew the numbers before seeing this, and quite honestly, I was shocked.”
The boards were to be taken down at year’s end, but the campaign probably will be considered again in 2016, Bruning said.