CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Ohio State Highway Patrol reports 978 fatalities from 824 crashes so far in 2021.
That number represents an increase of more than 100 over 2020, and records kept by the highway patrol show that while traffic decreased over the past two years during the pandemic, they are seeing fatalities from crashes increasing.
The greatest number of fatal crashes are in the Columbus/Franklin County area, followed by Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.
While some of that may be attributed to the fact that they are two of the most populated urban areas in the state, the highway patrol keeps track of numerous contributing factors.
“Wrong way driving, impaired drivers, excessive speeds, unbelted, we all know that when those particular crash variables are involved that we are seeing large increases in injury and death,” said Sgt. Ray Santiago of the Highway Patrol.
One study suggests that of the top ten most deadly stretches of road in the state, four of them are in the greater Cleveland area.
The most dangerous may be Interstate 480 between Transportation Boulevard and Exit 20A, which is at Rockside Road.
The study reveals 10 deaths from 9 crashes along that stretch of the interstate.
Sixth on the top ten list is a stretch of Interstate 90 through Brahtenal, according to the same study.
The next most dangerous may not even be a highway, but St. Clair Avenue between East 172nd Street and 72nd Street.
That is something that comes as no surprise to John Salatel who has worked repairing cars at his business there for decades.
“I see some of these folks going up and down the street here just massively speeding. I don’t know where they think they are going,” said Salatel.
Rounding out the top ten list is another stretch of Interstate 90 between Lakewood and Cleveland.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol maintains and constantly updates a database of all crashes in the state to help analyze the contributing factors in an effort to help decrease the numbers.
Among the numbers, however, that Santiago says may be underreported are crashes in which distracted driving may be a contributing factor.
Santiago says he believes drivers who are preoccupied by devices, including cell phones, contribute significantly to crashes and fatalities across the state, and more investigation can be done to determine if someone who died in a crash was using their phone or distracted in some other way at the time of their crash.
Impaired driving is also considered a common thread in many of the most serious crashes, but Santiago says troopers strongly believe every one of the crashes in Ohio can be prevented.
“You wont hear a trooper refer to these as an accident. They are crashes because every one of these variables is preventable,” said Santiago.