Fewer than 1,000 people died last year in Ohio traffic crashes, the lowest number since the state began keeping records in 1936.
Ohio seems to have ended 2013 with 981 traffic fatalities, state public-safety officials said yesterday. About a third of the deaths occurred in alcohol-related crashes.
Although the number might rise or drop as the Department of Public Safety gathers more information in the coming weeks, the total shouldn’t change much, department Director John Born said.
The statewide drop was driven in part by big declines in fatalities in Franklin and Hamilton counties, said Col. Paul Pride, the superintendent of the State Highway Patrol.
Final county-by-county numbers weren’t available yesterday, but data kept by the patrol showed that, as of mid-December, Franklin County had recorded 13 fewer traffic deaths in 2013 than in 2012. During the same period, Hamilton County logged 21 fewer deaths.
Traffic-related fatalities also fell in Columbus, from 63 in 2012 to 39 last year, said Sgt. Brooke Wilson of the Police Division’s accident-investigation unit. That number might drop to 37, Wilson said, because police suspect that two drivers died of natural causes and then crashed. Until autopsy reports are completed, they are included as traffic deaths, he said.
In Columbus in 2012, seven multiple-fatality crashes drove up the total, claiming 14 lives. Last year, the city had only one multiple-fatality crash, which killed two people, Wilson said.
The 39 people killed in 2013 in the city amounted to the fewest traffic deaths Columbus has had since 1994, records show.
Ohio, with the seventh-largest highway system in the nation and fifth-greatest volume of highway traffic, came close to dropping below 1,000 traffic deaths in 2011 but ended that year with 1,016.
Fatalities crept up in 2012 but remained at historically low levels, Born said. The deadliest year was 1969, when 2,778 people were killed in crashes in Ohio.
The downward trend probably is the result of multiple factors, including enforcement, public education and high-quality emergency care, Pride said. Safer cars and freeway improvements likely played a role as well, he said.
He said the patrol is also benefiting from the #677 number posted on highway signs across the state that allows motorists to key that in on their cellphones and alert authorities to impaired drivers and potential drug activity. The patrol fields about 2,800 calls to the tip line every month, Born said.
The record low number of deaths statewide should give Ohioans “great optimism” that traffic fatalities are preventable, Born said. Still, too many families are left devastated by fatal
crashes every year, he said yesterday.
“We can do even better. It starts again today.”
By Theodore Decker - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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