Fatalities down: Traffic fatalities down in 2011

A year ago, troopers across the state were asked one question under the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s new mantra — Trooper Shield — what were they going to do each day to contribute to a safer Ohio.

Troopers answered with hard work, which translated into increased arrests for OVI (operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol), more drug seizures and a decrease in the number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes. This hard work contributed to safer roadways and an increased quality of life in Ohio communities, said Lt. J.S. Carrico, commander of the Wapakoneta Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Provisional statistics reveal 997 confirmed deaths on Ohio roadways in 2011, with an additional 32 unconfirmed deaths, which still added up to a significant decrease compared to 2010, when 1,080 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes statewide.

Locally, there were five fatal crashes in Auglaize County in 2011, which is one fewer than the previous year.

“Even though we made great strides in 2011, we will remain focused on continuing these successes into 2012 and beyond,” Carrico said. “We have a lot of work left to do. Too many people are losing their lives on Ohio’s roadways and too many criminals continue to traverse our highways.”

Carrico said drinking and driving are always a dangerous combination and was a factor in two of the county’s fatal crashes during 2011.

He said high speed and not wearing a safety belt also increase one’s chances of being seriously injured or killed when in a crash.

“Troopers will be working traffic enforcement every where looking for crash causing violations like speed, failure to yield and following too closely, “ Carrico said.

The Trooper Shield mantra placed an increased emphasis on criminal patrol efforts and in doing so, troopers were able to seize an unprecedented amount of drugs and remove them from Ohio communities. Overall increases were seen in every significant category of illegal contraband — prescription pill seizures increased by 46 percent, cocaine seizures increased by 63 percent, heroin seizures increased by 69 percent and marijuana seizures increased 7 percent, according to state data.

Troopers at the Wapakoneta post made 22 arrests for felony drug violations in 2011, an increase from 12 arrests in 2010. Of the 22 arrests, four were for illegal prescription pills and two were for heroin. Troopers also found 55 people in possession of marijuana in 2011, an increase from 46 in 2010.

“With the increase in illicit and prescription drug abuse throughout the county, troopers are always on alert for signs of impairment and there is zero tolerance for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” Carrico said.

He said troopers will continue to look for signs of impairment and criminal activity on every traffic stop on every roadway.