It's going to be a busy holiday weekend with thousands of Ohioans traveling. AAA predicts it will be the busiest July 4 weekend since 2007. All of those people hitting the roads leads to a higher risk of crashes. Two state organizations have partnered to warn travelers of the dangerous -- and often deadly -- consequences.
"It's kind of busy and there are a lot of state troopers out," said Emilian Swirymsky.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol and Ohio Department of Transportation chose to partner in time for the July 4 holiday, as this weekend typically sees an increase in traffic fatalities and impaired driving. In the four-day 2014 reporting period, 12 people died in 11 fatal crashes. Of those crashes, five were OVI-related, resulting in six deaths. The OSHP made 761 OVI arrests.
OSHP and ODOT are sharing the number of traffic deaths on digital message boards to catch your attention.
"We just want to keep people aware that we are out there," said Sgt. Tim Dearmitt with OSHP. "It could say, 'don't drink and drive' or 'put on your seatbelt.'"
Or, display the number 487. That's how many traffic deaths there have been in the Buckeye State so far this year, compared to last year at the same time. It's a 19 percent increase. The largest increase was among drivers under the age of 25. Fatal crashes involving alcohol tripled and the number of deadly crashes involving people not wearing a seatbelt doubled during the month of May.
The goal of the new messages is to motivate drivers to be cautious while behind the wheel. According to law enforcement, traffic accidents can easily be prevented if drivers slow down, buckle up and don't drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"Our main goal is to get through the holiday without any fatalities," said Dearmitt.
Driver awareness plays a big role in making that a reality.
"Lately, we've seen a lot of Life Flight accidents, and we have had talks with the kids about behavior in the car, too, and how we should behave and drive," said Jill Lesiw.
Digital message boards will display these messages all weekend long, plus from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekdays, unless there is a higher priority message.