Less drivers on the road months into pandemic, but deadly crashes are up

Updated: Oct. 13, 2020 at 10:13 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - We have a warning for drivers before you hit the road.

You may be seeing less traffic on our roads still during the pandemic, but deadly crashes are up.

State troopers tell 19 Investigates they’re seeing concerning changes in driver behaviors.

Highways and roads were pretty empty this March through May, as many Ohioans stayed put during the governor’s stay-at-home order for coronavirus.

Car crashes and state trooper enforcements dropped dramatically during that time.

And the effects of the pandemic on driving continue to last.

19 Investigates discovered Ohio State Highway Patrol enforcement stops statewide are down by nearly 180,000 so far in 2020 compared to the same time frame in 2019.

OSHP statistics show enforcement stops at 275,567 so far in 2020 year to date, compared to 454,152 in 2019 during the same time period.

Despite that, we found deadly car crashes are up this year.

There have been 946 fatal crashes so far in 2020.

Last year at the same time, there were 904.

“So that’s almost 50 additional traffic fatalities, and that’s tragic, especially when we’re still not at our normal traffic levels,” said Sgt. Ray Santiago with Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Latest statistics from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Latest statistics from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.(Ohio State Highway Patrol)

In Cuyahoga County, deadly crashes are up by 18. Troopers say extreme speeding could be part of the problem.

Santiago said they saw a huge spike in drivers going over 100 miles per hour during the stay at home order.

“But what we saw with the traffic that was traveling, they were doing so at dangerous speeds, and crash severities actually increased,” he said.

And that is not stopping.

From January to the beginning of September, OSHP issued over 2,300 citations for drivers going over 100 miles per hour.

During that same time last year, they wrote about 1,400 tickets. Distracted driving is also up and construction zone accidents are a major concern too.

We found OVI stops are down by more than 5,000, but troopers say that’s not something to celebrate.

“Anytime you see a decrease in OVIs, it’s a positive. What’s not so positive is when those numbers, those statistics stay relative to the amount of traffic fatalities that we’re having. So that’s where it’s still an issue,” Santiago said.

The bottom line is this-- less drivers on the road right now doesn’t mean you’re safer.

But the state troopers are trying to do their part.

“When we see again, traffic decreases, we should see significant decreases in all of these areas where folks are getting injured and it’s not necessarily correlating that way,” Santiago said.

OSHP statistics show drug violations statewide are down so far this year from last year.

But weapons violations are up by more than 100.

All of this data helps state troopers figure out how to best protect you.

If you’re wondering about all of that lost ticket revenue from less traffic stops, the state patrol said they don’t track it and they don’t have a dollar amount.

The money doesn’t go to them, part of it goes to the state and the rest goes to the city or county where they made the stop.

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