MERCER, LAWRENCE COUNTIES Fatalities show a significant decline
One official said he thinks the drop was just a matter of circumstances.
The number of traffic fatalities in Mercer and Lawrence counties last year was much lower than in 2000, officials from the two counties say.
However, they don't say the drop is the start of a trend.
In Mercer County, the number of traffic deaths dropped by more than 50 percent in 2001.
There were 18 fatalities in the county last year as compared to 39 recorded in 2000, according to the Mercer County coroner's office and Vindicator records.
However, that doesn't signify a major change in driving patterns or driver behavior, said J. Bradley McGonigle III, Mercer County coroner.
"Last year  was an abnormal year," McGonigle said, noting the number of traffic deaths was much higher than average.
"I really think it's just a matter of circumstance," he said.
The county recorded 23 traffic deaths in 1997, 19 in 1998 and 12 in 1999.
There were six multideath traffic accidents in Mercer County in 2000, one of which claimed five lives.
By contrast, there were no multifatality accidents recorded in 2001.
McGonigle said he believes that the majority of traffic fatality accidents are alcohol related.
Another drop: Lawrence County also saw a large drop in its traffic fatalities in the last year.
There were five traffic fatalities in 2001. That's about 66 percent lower than the previous year, said Coroner Russell S. Noga. There were 14 traffic related deaths the previous year.
Noga, who was appointed acting coroner Jan. 1 after his father retired, could not explain the drop in traffic deaths in 2001. "God made it that way," he said.
He noted there are a number of different causes of traffic deaths from drunken driving to careless driving and speeding. He didn't provide figures for previous years.
XCONTRIBUTORS: Harold Gwin, Vindicator Sharon Bureau, and Laure Cioffi, New Castle Bureau.