(WKBN) – Last week, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued a news release asking people not to drive distracted over the holidays.
He cited a statistic showing traffic deaths up by 50 compared to last year. But the reality is, historically, traffic deaths in Ohio are way down.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, in 1936, there were 2,389 traffic deaths in Ohio. The number peaked in 1969 at 2,778.
Then in 1981, it fell below 2,000 and has stayed below that number ever since.
In fact, in 2013, there were only 990 traffic deaths and so far this year, there have been 1,119. That’s a drop of 60% in 50 years.
The reason? Roads and vehicles are now much safer.
Safety features on vehicles, like crumple zones, can help save lives.
Crumple zones are areas on vehicles that, if hit by another vehicle, are designed to absorb the impact and reduce injuries to passengers.
“What it’s designed to do is when a vehicle impacts you from the back, it’s designed to actually impact and wrap around this tire and give that feedback to the tire before it spreads to the rest of the vehicle,” said Sweeney Buick GMC’s Nicholas Sugar.
Vehicles like the GMC Terrain have features like airbags and cameras to help. Rear cameras prevent drivers from backing into something or someone. Front cameras act as the eyes of the vehicle, feeding information to the onboard computer.
“So, that’s all going to be looking at the road. If you start drifting out of your lane, that’s what will actually nudge your steering wheel back into your lane. If a person walks in front of you, it’s going to stop or slow down, or a vehicle suddenly stops. That camera does it all,” Sugar said.
Another reason the number of traffic deaths has dropped over 50 years is that the roads are safer.
Today in Ohio, there are rumble strips to alert drivers when they’re drifting and jersey walls or cable wire separating traffic going in opposite directions, which help prevent head-on collisions.
If there are too many deaths in an area or at an intersection, ODOT sends a team to investigate.
“With every crash, we take a look at it, with what’s going on with the intersection. If it draws a red flag, we have a crew that goes, looks at it and see how we can alleviate this issue and help make the area a lot safer,” Sugar said.
Ohio’s mandatory seat belt law took effect in 1986. That year, there were nearly 1,700 traffic deaths. But since then, deaths in Ohio have fallen by 30%.