Fewer people died on Portage County roadways in 2012 than the year before, according to Ohio Highway Patrol statistics.
Portage County saw 13 traffic-related fatalities in 2012. That's a decrease from 2011, when a total of 17 people died in vehicle and pedestrian crashes within Portage County's borders and on the Ohio Turnpike.
The highway patrol does not count deaths on the toll road toward Portage County's tally in final statistics, meaning that 15 people died on state, county and city streets and roads in Portage County in 2011, excluding the Turnpike.
Impaired driving -- drivers under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both -- and unsafe speed were the leading causes of traffic deaths in 2012. Lynette Blasiman, director of Portage County Safe Communities, said the leading causes of crashes in 2011 also were impairment due to alcohol or drug use and speed. Though there were fewer fatal crashes in 2012, the number of crashes blamed on impaired driving and speed increased, she said.
"Of the 13 deaths, four were alcohol/drug-related and five involved unsafe speed with a correlation between the two," said Lt. Nakia Hendrix, the commander of the highway patrol's Ravenna post. "Although impairment and unsafe speed get the most media attention, it should not go unsaid that driver inattention is also a major contributing factor in many fatalities."
Hendrix, who has since left the Ravenna post for a new assignment, said driver inattention includes failure to yield, failure to control, lane violations and other habits that take a driver's attention off the road.
"Staying alert as a driver and avoiding complacency behind the wheel can help to make for safer travels," he said.
The Portage County Fatal Review Board, made up of local law enforcement officials and members of the Portage County Safe Communities Coalition, meets quarterly to review fatal crashes in Portage County. The board recently met to discuss trends in crashes that occurred from October through December 2012, according to Blasiman.
Other data of note in the 2012 report included:
n For the second year in a row, the deadliest day of the week was Tuesday. Six of the 13 fatal crashes occurred on Tuesdays in 2012. Only the months of March and December passed without a single fatality.
n Nine fatal crashes occurred between 12:01 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. Only four were from the hours of midnight to noon.
n Ten men and three women were among the fatalities.
Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said the education and enforcement efforts utilized to reduce fatal crashes are to be praised.
However, "until there are zero traffic deaths, our work is not done," he said.
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