Fatalities, heroin discussed at traffic safety meeting

By Alexandra Newman - anewman@aimmedianetwork.com

PIQUA — Fatalities were down and drug violations were up in Shelby County in 2015.

That’s just some of the 2015 facts and figures local law enforcement and community representatives talked about at the Governor’s Community Traffic Safety Network of Shelby County meeting Tuesday morning.

Sidney Police handled just one fatality accident in 2015, while Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) Troopers handled two and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office handled two.

OSHP Lieutenant Joseph Gephart said the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s activity was up from 2014 to 2015. Crashes were up, but fatalities were down. In 2014 there were eight fatal crashes and in 2015 there were five. In 2015 there were 280 injury crashes and 1,148 property damage only crashes. These statistics are the entire county’s total from all three departments.

“I know we talk a lot about fatal crashes but you know, an injury crash just by happenstance could be a fatal crash. For whatever reason, the people survived. We’ve handled several injury crashes that could have very well been fatal,” Gephart said.

He said they’d like to focus on injury crashes as well and really target the areas where those are happening. “I think if we address injury crashes, that will have a positive impact on fatal crashes,” Gephart said.

A large amount of the reasons for crashes are cited as failure to control. Gephart said these could be misleading because if they can’t figure out a cause, that’s what they put down as the cause. He also talked about the high numbers of crashes caused by following too closely, failure to yield and improper lane changing. Gephart reported that these high statistics are from people not paying attention. He said he would try to get his troopers to write more citations for these kinds of driver errors.

He also reported that drug violation arrests were up. In 2014 there were 39 and in 2015 there were 73.

“There has been an emphasis as far as getting heroin users off the road. The troopers are out there working hard to keep impaired drivers off the road,” Gephart said.

“We still have people under the influence of heroin driving into town. We get a lot of people in Sidney that go to Dayton to pick up their heroin and they stop up and down the highway, and by the time they’re back in Sidney they’re under the influence,” Sidney Police Chief William Balling said.

Balling reported at the meeting that traffic statistics in the City of Sidney have averaged about the same the past three years.

“In 2014, there was a bigger push for traffic and being more active and visible. In 2015, we wanted to continue the visibility, however there were several other areas that we targeted as concerns for the city and reallocated some of our resources,” Balling said.

He said they really focused more on community relations and getting out for events in 2015; so there were 2,000 fewer traffic stops in 2015 compared to 2014. The amount of accidents remained about the same.

“A lot of those accidents were in January and February due to the snow conditions. Hopefully this year it’s a little bit better,” Balling said. “The cause of most of the accidents, though, is assured clear distance ahead. People being distracted. Whether on their cell phones, being distracted eating, or being distracted just thinking about something else. People are just not being aware.”

He added they had a lot of red light and stop sign enforcement’s throughout the year too. “With those, people are actually coming to a stop, more so, they’re paying more attention. It’s the people in the middle of the block, people coming up to the intersections hitting a car that’s stopped at the intersection,” Balling said.

He said they’re still seeing a lot of people driving without an operators license or under suspension. They had over 500 just in Sidney that they stopped and cited.

He also included figures about the calls for service the department received in 2015. The Sidney Police Department received 28,451 calls for service. Other than serving warrants, following up, alarms going off, parking complaints, miscellaneous, and traffic stops, the most calls the department received were for domestic in progress, theft, harassment, and check welfare.

“We were two officers down last year, so hopefully these numbers come back up a little bit and we can reduce the accidents from there,” Balling said.

Those in attendance also spoke about the new CARTEENS program. It is a traffic safety program is designed to permit qualifying offenders to attend the program instead of going to court.. The goal of the program is to reduce the number of repeat juvenile offenders and save lives.

The juvenile must attend the program with a parent. The cost of the program is only $25, the normal fine imposed for a traffic violation. However, once the teen completes the program, the judge will order the traffic charge be amended to a no-point violation and will waive the court fine.

The traffic safety committee will be working on planning a mock crash for all the area junior and senior high school students to attend some time in early April (before and around prom time). They will be planning this in hopes of curbing behavior that could lead to serious or fatal accidents.

Gary Clough from the Sidney Public Works Department was at the meeting to share some of the upcoming road projects happening in Sidney.

They’ve got two traffic signals going up this year. One at Vandemark Road at Industrial Drive and one at the Interstate 75 southbound ramp at Fair Road.

Clough said there will be a huge street resurfacing program going on in town this year valued at $2.5 million.

There is a safety study happening on state Route 47 between Interstate 75 and Walnut Avenue. Clough added there is a potential for a median there, mostly for aesthetics while driving into town, but it’s a safety project too.

There is also an urban paving project going on between Interstate 75 and Ohio Avenue. There will also be a project between Vandemark Road and Interstate 75, that will happen before the paving, that will relocate and adjust the traffic signals at Folkerth Avenue and Wayfarer Lane so those streets will align.

The next meeting of the Governor’s Community Traffic Safety Network of Shelby County will be April 19, 2016.

By Alexandra Newman


Reach this writer at 937-538-4825; follow on Twitter @SDNAlexandraN

Reach this writer at 937-538-4825; follow on Twitter @SDNAlexandraN