COLUMBUS — As of Monday, Dec. 21, 1,070 people have been killed on Ohio roadways this year. That’s a 9 percent increase over the same time last year. As Ohioans continue holiday festivities, the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) want to urge safety while driving on the roadways — especially remembering to always drive sober — to avoid fatalities.
Last year in Ohio, 24 people died in 23 crashes between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Of those crashes, nine were OVI-related, resulting in 10 deaths. OSHP will be out in full force this holiday season removing dangerous and impaired drivers in an effort to reduce fatal and injury crashes. OSHP arrested 628 drivers for OVI last year between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.
“We want motorists to understand that you have the power to make Ohio roadways safer,” said Colonel Paul A. Pride, Patrol superintendent. “Every time you designate a sober driver, prevent a drunk friend from driving home, put on your safety belt or put down your phone while at the wheel, you are contributing to safer roads and a safer Ohio.”
To illustrate the number of deaths on Ohio’s roadways this year, 1,070 chairs lined the back lawn of ODOT’s central office in Columbus Tuesday morning. The visual depiction is a grave reminder that each traffic fatality results in an empty seat at a family dinner table.
OSHP and ODOT partnered earlier this year to launch a safety initiative to bring awareness to the high number of traffic deaths. Since July, ODOT has been posting the number of fatalities, updated weekly, on more than 130 digital message boards above the highway and several portable message boards around the state. In July, the state had recorded 487 traffic deaths, a 19 percent increase over the previous year.
Overall, we are seeing higher increases in crashes involving pedestrians, bicycles, older drivers, and large trucks. The majority of traffic deaths have involved unbelted drivers and passengers, speed, alcohol, and drivers under the age of 25.
“Our top priority is always safety,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray. “The increased number of traffic deaths in Ohio is a great concern for both ODOT and our partners at the Ohio State Highway Patrol. A greater awareness before the holiday will hopefully result in one less death, one less loss, and one more family celebrating rather than mourning.”
We all have a role in safety. The public is encouraged to use #677 to report dangerous or impaired drivers, as well as drug activity.