It is pretty easy to guess the primary cause of fatal motor vehicle accidents in Ohio - excessive speed. Speeding means that it is difficult to stop quickly, resulting in traffic violations such as failure to yield, failure to control, unsafe speed and crossing the center line or leaving the road.
Although these errors can certainly be associated with drunk driving, drunk driving actually caused fewer fatalities in 2011 than in 2010, continuing a trend. The Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS) publishes exhaustive statistics about motor vehicle accidents. The most recent edition, for 2011, shows that alcohol-related motorist fatalities have continued to decline. However, impaired drivers still cause more than their fair share of accidents.
For example, in 2011, alcohol played a role in 36 percent of all Ohio fatal accidents. Although this is a decrease of 10 percent from the previous year, it is still a high number. In Franklin County, around half of all fatal motor vehicle accidents involved alcohol. This is also true for the city of Columbus.
Young drivers account for a large proportion of motor vehicle accidents, fatalities and injuries, according to the report. When age is combined with alcohol, the numbers are striking. Alcohol-impaired drivers between the ages of 21 and 25 caused a third of all fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2011.
Despite our knowledge that most motor vehicle accidents are not fatal, the catastrophic crashes grab our attention. Recently, there were several horrible accidents in the Columbus area:
- Ohio winter weather takes the lives of drivers every year. A driver was killed in a two-car crash when she lost control while attempting to pass on an icy road in Delaware County and slammed into an oncoming SUV.
- A crash last summer that took the life of an Amelia man may have involved illegal drugs that were found in the car. The crash involved a four-vehicle chain reaction.
- An elderly driver was hit and killed by an ambulance in January when he pulled out into traffic.
- Last summer, a 16-year-old driver lost control of the car as he and his friends were taking a break from high school band practice at Hilliard Bradley High School, about 18 miles west of Columbus. The driver and three passengers were not injured. Ohio law prohibits 16-year-old drivers from having more than one passenger in a car unless the other passengers are family members.
For most of us, driving is routine. However, for the drivers and passengers in these news stories and for the individuals reflected in the DPS statistical report, at least one drive was anything but routine. The moral of the story: Be responsible, obey the rules and pay attention. Although we can probably never eliminate motor vehicle accidents, we can try. By changing our behavior slightly, we can contribute to improving the safety of Ohio roads.