LORAIN COUNTY — Though the number of fatal car crashes in Lorain County in 2013 is almost a third of what it was in 2012, Ohio Highway Patrol troopers know they still have a lot of work to do.
“The percentage is a lot higher,” Patrol Sgt. Tim Hoffman said of the 81 percent of fatal crashes that were caused by impaired driving in 2013.
This year a total of nine car crashes resulted in 11 deaths, far fewer than the previous year when 26 crashes resulted in 26 deaths. However, Hoffman is disheartened by the number of fatal crashes that were caused by drunken and impaired drivers this year.
Hoffman said that in past years about half of the vehicle accidents resulting in deaths have been OVI-related. However this year, the number grew exponentially. Out of the nine crashes, seven were a result of impaired driving.
The one crash that sticks out most in Hoffman’s mind involved 18-year-old Dominic Zunis who was driving back from a party in March. Zunis, who had been drinking, crashed his car into a lake in Grafton Township and died.
“He was only 18,” Hoffman said of why the death made such an impact on him.
In the coming year, Hoffman said he and the patrol are planning on being just as vigilant in looking out for impaired drivers as they have been in the past.
“With increased OVI enforcement we can make a difference,” Hoffman said.
Increasing OVI enforcement isn’t the only thing troopers hope to focus on in 2014. Over the past year the patrol started enforcing seat-belt laws by keeping a lookout for people driving without wearing a seat belt. Hoffman, who believes this might have to do with the drastically reduced number of fatal crashes in 2013, hopes to continue that focus throughout 2014.
In addition to the focus on seat-belt law and OVI enforcement, Hoffman said the Ohio Highway Patrol is planning on working closely with the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, Elyria Police and Lorain Police to raise awareness about fatal crashes and OVI-related accidents in the county. In 2013, their efforts to raise awareness resulted in a successful OVI-checkpoint in Elyria, dedicated to A.J. Vincent, a teenage victim of a drunken-driving accident in 2010. At the checkpoint, officers handed each driver a flier with information about Vincent, his death and the impact it had on his family in an effort to remind drivers of the effects of drinking and driving.