According to statistics provided by the Ravenna and Hiram Posts of the Ohio Highway Patrol, there were 26 fatal traffic crashes in Portage County in 2001 with 29 people killed. Last year, the county recorded 20 fatal crashes with 23 people killed.
This year's total includes nine fatal crashes handled by the city of Kent, meaning there were actually 17 fatal crashes in the rest of the county _ the lowest number in about five years, according to Ravenna OHP post commander Lt. Alan Moore.
"Kent had nine fatals. That is a very large number for a city its size," Moore said.
The county recorded its first traffic fatality Jan. 18 when three people, including a six-year-old boy, were killed in a two-vehicle crash on S.R. 43 in Brimfield. Three more traffic fatalities, including a snowmobile accident Jan. 26 in Randolph, closed out the first month of the year.
The only other multiple fatality in Portage County occurred Feb. 13 on the Ohio Turnpike in Streetsboro. Two Russian women were killed when their car was crushed by a semi as they were attempting to back up after missing the exit.
Alcohol was involved in five of the county's fatal crashes for a total of 27 percent. Alcohol was a factor in only two of Kent's fatalities for a total of 22 percent. Last year, alcohol was involved in 45 percent of the county's fatalities.
Moore said he attributes the decrease to strict enforcement of drunk driving laws, including the creation of the Portage County DUI Task Force several months ago.
The youngest person killed was six and the oldest was 84. Twenty-one of the victims were males and eight were females.
Twelve of the crashes involved more than one vehicle and Moore said very few of the crashes resulted in vehicular homicide charges because most of the victims were at fault.
Charges are pending in only one fatality _ an Aug. 12 crash on Meloy Road. Investigators are still waiting for results of a blood test on the driver.
There were five car-pedestrian fatalities, three of which occurred in Kent. A hit-skip July 1 on Smalley Road in Windham Township remains unsolved.
Eight of the county's fatal crashes involved the use of seatbelts and 11 did not, with the remaining crashes not being applicable because they involved pedestrians, a motorcycle, a bicycle and a snowmobile.
Moore said speed was the number one cause of accidents this year followed closely by failure to yield. That trend was the same last year.
The Ravenna Post has handled 2,292 accidents as of Dec. 29, up slightly from last year's total of 2,242. Moore said the post handles an average of 2,200 accidents annually.
Lt. Rudy Zemelka of the Hiram post said they have handled 761 accidents as of Dec. 29. He said the number is usually around 700 and if they come close to 800 it is an exceptionally busy year.
"We have made a lot of headway in terms of our alcohol-related fatalities and our fatalities in general," Moore said. "I hope this trend will continue in the new year."
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