ELYRIA — Fatal traffic crashes claimed the lives of 34 people in Lorain County in 2017, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.
The number is slightly less than the 37 fatalities that took place 2016, but Lt. Carlos Smith, commander of the patrol’s Elyria post, said their goal is zero fatalities.
“We would rather not knock on anyone’s door and give them that tragic news that changes lives forever,” he said.
Smith said when factors like alcohol, not wearing a seat belt and not paying attention are looked at, most crashes are preventable.
The number of alcohol-related fatal crashes rose to 38 percent compared to 24 percent in 2016. Drug-related traffic deaths declined from 15 percent in 2016 to 9 percent this year.
The report released by the patrol showed that 67 percent of the crash victims did not have their seat belts fastened.
There was one confirmed distracted-driving death, but Smith said that is not necessarily an accurate number.
“You really can’t calculate when it’s a one-car crash and no one can tell us what they were doing,” Smith said. “We try to get into their device to see or the black box if it’s a newer vehicle.”
He added that distracted driving is a huge problem that troopers are dealing with across the state and nationwide.
“We tell everybody when you’re driving, drive,” Smith said.
Of the 34 deaths, 12 occurred in cities. Out of the 22 fatal crashes in rural areas, four were in Wellington and three were in LaGrange.
Only one of the nine motorcyclists who died in crashes this year was wearing a helmet, he said.
Smith said 25 percent of those killed in traffic crashes were younger than 25, with the youngest being 5 years old.
Nearly 12 percent of fatal crashes involved a teenage driver, he said.
“When you’re young, inexperienced, speeding and you don’t have your seat belt on, those are all recipes for disaster,” Smith said. “Young kids don’t know how to steer themselves out of trouble. They usually panic, hit the brakes and overcorrect.”
Smith offered some pointers for drivers.
“We try to educate people that vehicle distance, vehicle speed and paying attention are things that will reduce the likelihood of being in an accident,” he said.
He said that for every 10 mph of speed drivers should allow one vehicle’s length of space between vehicles.
“So when you are driving at 50 miles per hour, have five car spaces between you and vehicle in front of you,” he said.
Contact Cindy Breda at 329-7126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.