By ERIC SCHAADT
During 2018, five counties surrounding Hancock County saw a decline in the number of fatal traffic accidents on their roadways.
Hancock County could not make a similar claim.
Statistics from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office show that 10 people perished in nine accidents on Hancock County and Findlay roadways in 2018, an increase from four traffic deaths recorded during 2017.
Alcohol was involved in at least one local crash last year, compared with zero alcohol-involved fatalities in 2017, according to the sheriff’s office.
(Toxicology results are pending for two men who perished in a Blanchard Avenue crash in November, according to local authorities.)
The sheriff’s office reported that five of the nine accidents were caused by drivers failing to control vehicles.
Traveling left of center was the main factor in two other fatal crashes, while failure to yield the right of way, and an assured clear distance violation, were factors in the two remaining fatal accidents.
Sgt. Matthew Kinsinger with the sheriff’s office said distracted driving remains a concern.
“Distracted driving is any activity that diverts a driver’s attention, including talking or texting on a phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers in your car, adjusting the stereo, entertainment or navigation system,” he said.
“You cannot drive safely unless you devote your whole attention to the task of driving. Any non-driving activity can be a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing,” he said.
In Findlay, most overall traffic accidents in 2017 may have been due to driver inattention, such as not noticing stop lights and stop signs, Findlay police said.
“We also see many rear-end collisions on Tiffin Avenue, West Trenton Avenue, Bright Road and Sandusky streets,” according to Officer Brian White with the police department’s Crime Prevention Division.
According to the Findlay post of the State Highway Patrol, alcohol use and not wearing seat belts were noted in some of last year’s fatal crashes.
“Those are choices that people can make that will prevent injury or death,” said Lt. Matt Crow, commander of the Findlay post.
Interstate 75 remains a focus of attention for state troopers.
“With the construction continuing and traffic volumes as they are, we have seen everything from minor crashes to fatalities,” Crow said of the 2018 accident numbers.
“Most of those crashes can be (attributed) to people not following the speed limits in the construction zone, as well as (motorists’) impatience.
“Impatience leads to crashes, such as improper lane changes and failure to maintain assured clear distance ahead,” he said.
Troopers will continue to target distracted driving, including improper lane changes, traffic sign violations and tailgating, Crow said.
“A program we are going to work on in 2019 will focus on the problem of drug-impaired driving,” he said.
In 2019, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office will deploy high-visibility enforcement patrols during peak traffic times, and will continue to participate in national traffic safety mobilizations such as “Click It or Ticket,” “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and “Ride SMART” motorcycle safety.
According to the sheriff’s office, funding for the extra patrol hours will be provided by a federal grant administered through the Ohio Traffic Safety Office and Ohio Department of Public Safety.
According to the State Highway Patrol’s website, five counties around Hancock County recorded fewer fatal accidents in 2018 compared with the previous year:
• Allen County, 11 traffic deaths in 2017 compared with nine in 2018.
• Hardin County, six deaths in 2017, down to five deaths last year.
• Henry County, nine traffic deaths in 2017, down to eight last year.
• Seneca County, 10 deaths in 2017, compared with four in 2018.
• Wyandot County, three traffic deaths in 2017, and two last year.
Wood County tabulated 14 traffic deaths in 2017 and the same number in 2018. Putnam County recorded three traffic deaths in 2017 and three again in 2018.
Ohio recorded 1,057 traffic fatalities in 2018 as of late December, a decrease from 1,179 in 2017, according to state patrol statistics.