COLUMBUS – Good news for Ohio drivers.
In a Strategic Highway Safety Plan meeting, Monday with safety organizations from across the state, leaders with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) discussed trends on Ohio roadways.
Findings show that while four out of the last five years have seen a rise in traffic deaths around the state, 2018 was different.
In 2018 the state saw about a 9 percent reduction in traffic deaths statewide, according to Michelle May, ODOT highway safety program manager.
The numbers reflect about 100 fewer deaths in 2018 than in 2017, a number worthy of celebration, May said.
It’s the first reduction in traffic deaths in five years, she added. Now, the question is, how to sustain the trend in 2019.
The research indicates that the number of traffic deaths started to decline last summer.
“Preliminarily, we know that a couple things happened,” May said. “When we started 2018 we were on pace to have a higher number of deaths than we had had the previous year, which wasn’t good. But around summer something happened and things started to dip. And then by the time we got to August and all the way through December we saw fairly significant and dramatic reductions in traffic deaths across the state.”
While ODOT is still looking into why that happened, May told 10TV that one thing is sure.
“There’s no question that the choices we make behind the wheel determine whether or not we have fewer deaths or more deaths,” she said. “So whether or not you wear a seatbelt in the car, in the front seat as well as the back seat, whether or not you choose to put your phone down, to not text, to not stream video, to not facetime, those are critical decisions that we make that make ourselves safer and the people around us safe.”
Social media and widespread messages promoting safe driving by ODOT have had an impact as well, May said, adding that the department received a tremendous amount of feedback for their freeway message signs and dynamic message boards around the state.
“For a moment, if nothing else, people are thinking about traffic safety and the role they play in whether or not they buckled up,” she said.
While ODOT and other safety organizations work to keep the momentum of fewer traffic deaths moving forward in 2019, there is one area of concern leaders say, could use some extra work.
Over the past five years, numbers show that the State of Ohio has seen a dramatic increase in pedestrian deaths.
It boils down to one factor, May explained. Now, more than ever, there are more people walking and biking on Ohio roads and it is up to everyone to bring the number of deaths down, ideally to zero, in 2019.
“Whether you’re a pedestrian stepping off that curb, whether you’re looking at your phone or not, is a safety decision that is critical. Same with the motorist,” May said. “If you’re looking at your phone, you’re fiddling with your radio, you’re not looking for a pedestrian that is at a crosswalk or walking along the side of the road on the sidewalk.”
You can look at the research on deadly accidents around Ohio and the plans for reducing them, by clicking here.