By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol post in Lisbon hope their stepped-up enforcement in 2001 has prompted county motorists to buckle up.
Lt. George C. Williams, post commander, said he should have the results of the Federal Highway Administration's 2001 study by early February.
The FHA's report for 2000 showed Columbiana County motorists ranked lowest in the state in seat-belt use.
The agency gathers information for the study by providing funding for troopers to spend otherwise off-duty hours sitting in their personal vehicles in designated areas to track whether motorists are wearing their seat belts.
Williams said most fatal crashes are the result of speeding and not wearing seat belts. He said troopers will continue the zero-tolerance policy for motorists not wearing the belts.
Causes of deaths: In Columbiana County, speed continues to be the leading cause of traffic fatalities, followed by motorists' failure to yield the right of way, he said.
Troopers will continue monthly weeklong, targeted enforcement in undisclosed sections of the county, Williams said.
A task force of troopers and sometimes county deputy sheriffs spend one week each month in a designated area, specifically looking for motorists who are speeding or aren't wearing their seat belts.
Williams said the enforcement is aimed at not only improving seat-belt use but also curbing speeding and, ultimately, reducing the number of fatal crashes. In 2001, 10 people died in crashes on county highways, compared to 13 in 2000, he said.
Although Ohio law makes seat-belt noncompliance a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement officers cannot stop a motorist simply for not wearing a seat belt, Williams said motorists stopped for primary violations shouldn't expect any leniency if they aren't wearing the restraint.