COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Traffic fatalities are on the rise in Franklin County and now law enforcement agencies plan to be on the road more often for the rest of the year.
“Our top story this year across the country and even the world has been the pandemic,” said Kimberly Schwind, a AAA spokesperson.
In the first nine months of this year, there were 89 fatal crashes and 94 deaths in Franklin County, which is 16 more than this same time span last year.
14 fatal crashes have happened on I-270, the most of any roadway in Franklin County.
62 percent of people involved in fatal crashes were not wearing a seatbelt. Speed and distractions play a major role in the problem as well as impairment, which accounts for nearly one-third of all fatal crashes.
“Just earlier today, we had somebody following a drunk driver at 10 this morning,” said Franklin County Chief Deputy Jim Gilbert.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Columbus Police, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office are ramping up their efforts to keeping the roads safe saying they will be out in full force.
The pandemic also suspended sobriety checkpoints, which law enforcements uses to deter people from drinking and driving.
“We kind of slowed down our operations,” said Lt. Michael Akers, commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Protests also required more law enforcement presence in downtown Columbus taking officers and patrol units away from highway posts.
“We spent some time at the statehouse with the protests and some other type of things and that does decrease the amount of people you see on the road because we’re pulled in other areas,” said Lt. Akers.
Now, they are trying to return to normal patrols, hoping that will make a difference.
“We need to get a handle on this.” said Lt. Akers. “If we don’t, these fatal crashes are going to continue to increase.”
An increase Deputy Chief Gilbert said is more than likely to happen.
“We’re getting ready to get into the holiday season once November hits with Thanksgiving, and this ban, once it’s lifted, it goes back to the normal hours of the bars being open until two in the morning,” said Gilbert. “We know we’re going to probably see an increase. So, I hope it doesn’t happen but we are probably going to see a large uptick to where our numbers are right now.”