The Canfield post said 21 percent of highway deaths in 2001 involved alcohol.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
With 2001 statistics' showing small reductions in motor vehicle crash deaths, area Ohio State Highway Patrol commanders are resolved to further reduce fatal crashes in 2002.
Lt. George C. Williams, commander of the Lisbon post, said speed continues to be the leading cause of traffic fatalities in Columbiana County, followed by motorists' failure to yield the right-of-way. He said there were 10 fatalities in Columbiana County in 2001, compared with 13 in 2000.
The Southington post of the state patrol also reported a reduction in fatalities last year.
The post said 30 people died on Trumbull County roads in 2000, and 25 in 2001.
Lt. William Thompson of the Southington post of the OSHP said he is very pleased with the reduction.
"We would like at the very minimum to reduce the numbers again this year," Thompson said. "Of course, we would like the number to be zero."
Task force: Thompson said out of the 25 deaths in 2001, nine were alcohol related.
"I believe there are several reasons for the reduction, including the creation of the Trumbull County DUI task force," Thompson said.
The task force started last February and is made up of several Trumbull County law enforcement agencies. A state grant funds the task force, officials said.
Thompson said he also believes that continued education about the dangers of drinking and driving also helps.
"My troopers have gone to high schools and are getting the message out to young people not to drink and drive," Thompson said.
Lt. Brian Girts, commander of the highway patrol's Canfield post, said 16 people died in crashes on Mahoning County highways in 2001, compared with 18 in 2000.
Post priority: Girts said reducing alcohol-related crashes is a priority for the Canfield post. He said 21 percent of the fatal crashes in 2001 were alcohol related. He said that a ruling on the death of an elderly man is pending and that if alcohol was not involved, the percentage of alcohol-related crashes drops to 20 percent.
Girts said he would like to believe a reduction in alcohol-related fatal crashes is the result of the post's diversion programs, particularly among younger drivers.
Alcohol contributed to half of the fatal accidents in 2000. In 1999, alcohol contributed to 42 percent of the accidents that claimed 23 lives.
Reality Checkpoint: The diversion program Girts believes has been most worthwhile is Reality Checkpoint, held roughly six times each year at St. Elizabeth Health Center. The program, moderated by Girts, was created by officers from police departments in Boardman, Poland and Beaver.
In lieu of receiving a citation, kids who have been involved in an alcohol or drug-related incident, not necessarily driving, attend the program with a parent. Speakers, including a mother who lost her 16-year-old son in a car accident, talk about the dangers of making poor choices, Girts said.
Consequences: Richard White, magistrate at Mahoning County Juvenile Court, talks about the consequences parents face with civil liabilities. Brenda Bell, injury prevention coordinator at St. Elizabeth's, does a graphic presentation of the hospital's trauma room.
Girts shows a slide presentation of local fatal crashes and a video of DUI arrests.
CONTRIBUTORS: Peggy Sinkovich of the Warren Bureau and Patricia Meade, Vindicator crime reporter