Staff Writer

It’s mid-March, and Hancock County has seen almost as many traffic fatalities so far this year as in all of 2018.

Five accidents have resulted in the deaths of eight drivers or passengers, and a pedestrian was killed in an accident Wednesday morning.

Last year, 11 people died in car crashes in Hancock County, according to the State Highway Patrol.

Common factors in this year’s accidents include “unsafe speed, driving left of center and failure to yield,” the patrol said Wednesday. “Traffic crashes involving distracted driving are also continuing to increase.”

“These factors, in conjunction with failing to wear a seat belt, significantly contribute to the number of people who have been killed or injured as a result of a traffic crash,” the patrol said.

Four drivers or passengers who died this year were not wearing seat belts, according to the patrol.

Those killed in 2019 range in age from 21 to 83.

Four of the deaths have occurred this week.

Three people were killed in a head-on collision Tuesday evening on Ohio 186, just north of U.S. 224, near McComb.

The Wednesday accident in which pedestrian Mark Hochstettler was killed happened on Ohio 568, east of Hancock County 236 in Marion Township.

Other fatal accidents this year happened on Ohio 613, west of Pleasant Township 117; on Ohio 12, east of Hancock County 140; on Interstate 75, south of the Ohio 103 exit; and at the intersection of U.S. 224 and Marion Township 215.

The patrol is emphasizing a new $100 fine “now added to all traffic citations that involve distracted driving.”

The fine has been in effect since Oct. 29, 2018. Distracted drivers can pay the fine, or take an online class instead.

“Troopers at the Findlay post are urging people to slow down, focus on safety at hand and to always wear seat belts when driving or riding in a motor vehicle,” the patrol said.

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