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Ohio highway patrol recaps 'bad year' for serious crashes

Emil Whitis • Jan 15, 2013 at 5:10 AM

In total, 1,089 people died in Ohio traffic crashes last year. There were 1,015 in 2011.

And the trend held true in Erie, Ottawa and Huron counties. 

Sandusky County's numbers, meanwhile, held fast at six. 

"It was a bad year," Highway Patrol Lt. Anthony DeChoudens said. "Unfortunately (higher fatal crash numbers) is a trend throughout the state." 

But it wasn't for lack of effort. In 2012, troopers busted 758 more drunken drivers than they did the previous year, and they wrote 7,419 more seat belt tickets and made 55,560 more traffic stops. 

They also investigated 1,811 fewer wrecks than the previous year, but the wrecks they did investigate were deadlier. 

Why? Nobody knows. 

DeChoudens, who's tasked with policing roads in Erie and Ottawa counties, said there's no way to pinpoint an exact cause. 

Regardless, he said troopers will work to combat the problem. 

"Unfortunately, with the law of averages, when you have that much traffic you're going to have wrecks and some are going to be fatal," he said. "Our job is to reduce that number as much as possible."

The good news: There wasn't a single fatal alcohol-related crash in Erie County in 2012, according to highway patrol statistics. Ottawa, Huron and Sandusky counties registered just one apiece, for a total of three.

In the Register's four-county coverage area in 2011, there were nine fatal crashes where alcohol was involved. In 2010 there were 15 such crashes. 

One interesting statistic DeChoudens came across in Erie and Ottawa counties: There was an increase in crashes involving senior citizens. 

He said he's already taken action on that count. 

"I've been working with Serving Our Seniors, speaking to seniors about safe driving and passing out literature," DeChoudens said. "It's a sensitive issue. How do you tell a person who's been driving their whole life it's time to hang it up?" 

Many times, all it takes is an adjustment to a senior's medication or prescription glasses. Still, it's often up to friends and family to deal with the issue before it becomes a tragedy, DeChoudens said.  

If talking doesn't work, concerned family members can call 1-877-772-8705 and a trooper will schedule an examination. 

Looking forward, DeChoudens has already planned a traffic enforcement blitz along U.S. 250 in April, May and June — the beginning of the tourism season. 

"We're basically putting a bunch of units together to work the problem areas," he said. "In Erie county that means (U.S.) 250."

DeChoudens said he'll also continue to pour through crash data to "identify and attack" dangerous driving patterns with the hope of a safer 2013 on local asphalt.


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