Loading…
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Current Weather
Loading Current Weather....
HomeNewsState
Published: Monday, 9/24/2012

Ohio traffic deaths, cases fall, but reasons may differ 

BY ROBERT VITALE
COLUMBUS DISPATCH

COLUMBUS — Traf­fic cases in Ohio courts have dropped by nearly one-third over the past de­cade, but ex­perts dif­fer on whether driv­ers de­serve much credit.

The state recorded its few­est-ever traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties last year and seat-belt use hit an all-time high of 84 per­cent of all driv­ers and pas­sen­gers.

Drunken-driv­ing cases are down mark­edly, which safety ad­vo­cates hope is ev­i­dence their mes­sage and high-pro­file en­force­ment ef­forts are tak­ing hold.

But Co­lum­bus po­lice say they're is­su­ing fewer speed­ing tick­ets and traf­fic ci­ta­tions for an­other rea­son: They have fewer of­fi­cers. 

Staff­ing in the traf­fic units -- those pa­trol­ling high­ways and in­ves­ti­gat­ing crashes -- dropped dur­ing the city's 2009 bud­get cri­sis and isn't back up to ear­lier lev­els, said Lt. Brent Mull, who heads the traf­fic unit.

Other of­fi­cers in the city's pre­cincts, whose du­ties in­clude traf­fic en­force­ment, have re­sponded to a ris­ing num­ber of calls for ser­vice, Lieu­tenant Mull said, fur­ther cut­ting down on the num­ber of po­lice eyes watch­ing driv­ers on the roads.

Co­lum­bus po­lice is­sued 25 per­cent fewer ci­ta­tions in 2011 than in 2009, ac­cord­ing to an­nual re­ports.

"Time to pa­trol, time to en­force traf­fic laws -- that's the first thing that goes away," Lieu­tenant Mull said.

State­wide, 1.2 mil­lion traf­fic cases were filed in Ohio mu­nic­i­pal and county courts last year, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics com­piled by the Ohio Supreme Court. The num­ber has dropped ev­ery year since 2006, and it's down from al­most 1.8 mil­lion cases in 2002.

Drunken-driv­ing cases are down more than 20 per­cent over the past de­cade, al­though more were filed in 2011 than in 2010.

"Our hope is, [the mes­sage is] start­ing to get through," said Doug Scoles, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ohio chap­ter of Moth­ers Against Drunk Driv­ing. "But we'd like to see a more-steady de­cline."

Frank­lin County Munic­i­pal Court records since 2003 mir­ror the state­wide de­cline in traf­fic cases. Al­most 134,000 cases were filed nearly a de­cade ago, and more than 91,000 were filed in 2011.

The num­bers in­clude all traf­fic cases sent to court, in­clud­ing peo­ple charged in fa­tal crashes, drunken driv­ers, and speed­ing tick­ets. Court of­fi­cials said cases are tal­lied whether mo­tor­ists pay fines on­line or chal­lenge them in per­son, so the de­cline isn't be­cause fewer peo­ple are con­test­ing traf­fic ci­ta­tions.

Fewer are, though. 

The court statis­tics show that, state­wide, 3.6 per­cent of peo­ple took their speed­ing tick­ets or other ci­ta­tions to a judge. The per­cent­age of peo­ple who re­quest a jury trial is just 0.1 per­cent. Those fig­ures are down from 4.4 per­cent and 0.5 per­cent 10 years ago.



Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. If a comment violates these standards or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report abuse. To post comments, you must be a Facebook member. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.

Related stories







Poll