Immediate care at the scene and more safety features in cars credited, sheriff's office says
Knock on wood.
There have been no fatal traffic accidents in Erie County this year.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, this is a first for the county. Though the agency only keeps records on fatal crashes back to 2000, no one there could remember a time when there wasn't a fatal crash in the county.
By November 2006, the county logged 11 fatal crashes compared to seven in 2005 and eight in 2004 in the same time frame.
"We've been very lucky this year and we hope our luck holds out," said Capt. Paul Sigsworth of the Erie County Sheriff's office. "Usually by this time of the year, we would have several on the books."
Sigsworth said the lack of fatals can be attributed to four facets of traffic safety, or 'the four E's: Education, Engineering, Emergency responders and Enforcement.
"Education is the most important," he said. "I think people are starting to get the idea that seat belts do save lives."
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, an estimated 90 percent of people in Erie County wear seat belts on a regular basis, an increase from 85 percent about two years ago.
Sigsworth said vehicles are engineered to be much safer now than ever before with more seat belt use, more air bags and steering columns that collapse in an accident.
"Cars are just built with more protection in mind than what they used to be," he said.
He added that the Ohio Department of Transportation and the county engineer's office have also done their part by repairing broken or exposed guardrails and adding reflective tape to signposts.
But officers said emergency responders can be credited with keeping injuries from turning into fatalities.
"The medical care, especially the pre-arrival medical care, is just light years better now than what it used to be," Sigsworth said. "The care these victims get in the field now is probably better than what they used to get in the hospital decades ago. A lot of these people are living because of the care they are getting right at the crash scene."
The final facet, enforcement by area agencies, works as a preventative measure because it's a visible deterrent, he said.
Perkins police Chief Tim McClung said the Perkins Police Department's reputation does more than just prevent accidents.
"We've always had a pretty high presence and pretty strict traffic enforcement," he said. "At the same time, strict traffic enforcement is also a deterrent to crime."
Sigsworth said he hopes their luck continues and encourages people to remember the basics: slow down, buckle-up and don't drink and drive.