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02 Feb

Crash Fatalities Soar in Ohio

Ohio Traffic Crash Fatalities Highest in Nearly 20 Years

Last year was the deadliest year on Ohio roadways in nearly two decades, even with traffic levels below pre-pandemic levels. 

The number of Ohio traffic deaths increased from 1,230 in 202 to 1,360 in 2021, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol data obtained by the Dayton Daily News. That’s the most fatalities the state has seen since 2002, when 1,417 people died in crashes nationwide.

According to the State Patrol, the number of individual fatal crashes (1,227) was also the highest in at least five years, marking the third consecutive year that number increased. That indicates the increase was not skewed by a few high fatality mega crashes. 

Ohio Traffic Deaths

2017- 1179 deaths

2018- 1068 deaths

2019- 1155 deaths

2020- 1230 deaths

2021- 1360 deaths

There are several reasons why there were so many traffic deaths, even with many people still working from home and driving less, according to LT. Nathan Dennis, a public informant officer for OSHP.

One of the more alarming aspects that OSHP noticed for 2021 was the 21.2% surge in the number of fatalities for those not wearing their safety belts, going from a three year average of 466 fatalities between 2018 to 2020 to 565 in 2021. 

“That is actually the highest it’s ever been on record in Ohio.” Dennis stated.

Another issue is that people are simply driving too fast, as speed related fatal crashes increased for a third year in a row.

“It’s no secret that the faster you are going, the worse off the outcome of that crash could be.” Dennis said. “We still have an issue with speeding on the roadway, which troopers are seeing everyday. We’re out there working the road and issuing citations for that and the problem is only continuing to grow.” 

OVI- related traffic fatalities actually dropped slightly for the second year, from 641 to 608, but that’s still roughly 45% of all Ohio traffic deaths for 2021.

Dennis said the number of motorists being arrested for OVI is still a major problem and Ohio is seeing an increase in impaired driving by drug use.

OVI can be alcohol, or it can be marijuana or narcotics or even prescription drugs that are prescribed to somebody. “There’s warning labels on bottles that say not to drive a vehicle when YouTube taking medication, but people still do, and that’s a form of impaired driving.”

In each of Montgomery, Miami and Butler counties, the number of traffic deaths in 2021 was the highest it had been in at least five years. 

Montgomery county traffic deaths increased slightly in 2021, from 71 to 74, even though the number of fatal crashes dipped from 63 to 61, according to OSHP data. The biggest increases in fatalities from 2020 to 2021 were in Miami County nearly doubling from 24 to 34.

Clark county saw little changes in 2021, with traffic fatalities falling from 2020’s five year peak from 23 to 22. 

The outliers locally were Greene and Warren counties, each of which saw traffic deaths decline in 2021. Greene fell from 13 to 10, and Warren fell from 15 to 8. For each county, those 2021 totals were the lowest or second lowest of the past 5 years.

Increases in fatal highway crashes and the overall amount of fatalities occurred even after traffic volumes hit bottom in April 2020, when they were down nearly 50% compared to the same time a year earlier, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation. 

ODOT spokesman Matt Bruning said it’s “shocking” that the number of deaths on Ohio highways did not decrease in 2020 when traffic levels drastically dropped off. He said it’s discouraging that they are still surging at a time when traffic continues to be down by 5% to 7% compared to pre Covid levels.

This month, the amount of motorists on Ohio roadways has been down 7% compared to January of 2019.

Even when traffic volumes eventually rebound, motorists can reduce the amount of fatalities by following the speed limit, avoiding impaired driving and wearing a seatbelt at all times, as well as avoiding distracted driving, which remains a top factor in crashes according to OSHP.

“If everybody just simply follows the laws, what will happen is you are going to see those fatal numbers decrease drastically throughout 2022, and that’s what we’re hoping for.” Dennis stated.

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