MOUNT VERNON — An increase in Knox County of fatal crashes where seat belts were not in use has local law enforcement weighing increased educational efforts to encourage buckling up.
In 11 crashes that have claimed 12 lives, 73 percent of vehicle occupants were not wearing their seat belts, according to statistics provided by Ohio State Highway Patrol, Mount Gilead Post Lt. Gurjit Grewal. The numbers do not include a Nov. 22 early morning crash in which a 63-year-old United Kingdom man was killed. So far in 2018, there have been a total of 12 crashes that claimed 13 lives.
With the increase, Knox County Safe Communities and their partners in law enforcement are looking at ways to increase seat belt use, Elisa Beckett, Safe Communities program coordinator, said.
“We don’t know the reason why seat belt use is down, but we’re trying to stress it,” Beckett said.
Beckett said Safe Communities is discussing more education-style programing, such as safety belt checks, and focusing on the issue at local festivals and other public events.
A safety belt check held at Danville schools Tuesday involved Safe Communities, Danville Police, Fredericktown Police, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio State Patrol. Drivers were checked whether they were wearing their seat belts as they came in for work or dropped off kids.
Most were belted. DPD Patrolman Rene Joris, who is also the school resource officer for Danville schools, had a talk with a student who wasn’t.
“He said he wasn’t wearing his seat belt because the trip is just down the road for him,” Joris said, noting that most crashes occur within a few miles of the home.
Traffic fatalities have doubled in Knox County since last year. In 2017, six people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, according to the Knox County Coroner’s Office.
Of the 2018 crashes, 47 percent involved drivers 55 or older, 40 percent involved alcohol or drugs, 33 percent involved motorcycles and 20 percent involved young drivers. Most of the fatal crashes occurred on state routes, followed by township roads. The deadliest hours on the road were between 1-6 p.m., when nine fatal crashes occurred; four of those crashes happened around 5 p.m.
Grewal said a contributing factor appears to be that drivers are not paying enough attention, especially when traveling on roads they use daily.
“Our state routes are not flat and straight,” Grewal said. “The driver gets comfortable with these roads and aren’t paying attention to what’s around the next corner and aren’t looking over the next dip. We have too many people getting injured or dying when these crashes are very much avoidable.”