SIDNEY — Short days and longer nights. That’s what residents in Ohio are facing right now.
“During the month of January, we have 9 hours of daylight,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. “In June and July, we have 15 hours of daylight.”
Because of the longer nights — and low light conditions — the sheriff’s office sees an increase in nighttime crashes.
“We had 304 accidents in 2019,” said Lenhart. “Fifty-five percent of them were due to low light conditions. And at the time of the crashes, there was 60 percent less traffic than at other times of the day.
“Fifty percent of the fatal crashes nationwide in 2019 were at night,” he said.
Lenhart said night driving can be dangerous for all people, but especially senior citizens and teenagers.
“You don’t have a lot of time to relax and look around when you’re driving at night,” he said.
Lenhart offered some tips on making sure you can see while driving at night.
• Clean the window on your vehicle at least once a week.
• Replace any cracked glass as it can cause a glare from oncoming vehicle lights.
• Inspect all the lights on the vehicle including headlights, brake lights and turning signal lights.
• If a window on the vehicle is broke, replace it as soon as you can.
• Make sure the headlights of the vehicle are accurately aimed. To test this, pull the vehicle 20 feet from a door or side of the house. Turn the lights on and make sure both are pointing at the same height.
• When driving, maintain a long distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
• Watch out for pedestrians.
• Avoid looking at the headlights of the vehicle approaching you.
• Look out for animals crossing the road. Lenhart said there were 179 deer-related crashes in the county in 2019.
• Avoid eating, drinking or smoking while driving. Focus on your driving as a 6 second cellphone call can make you a distracted driver and lead to deadly results.
• Avoid driving long hours without a break.Don’t drive after taking medication or drinking alcohol. Lenhart said 4 percent of the night crashes in the county are alcohol or drug related.
“Fatigue is also a leading cause of crashes,” said Lenhart. “I remember driving home with the family from Florida. I wanted to be home around 10:30-11 p.m. But we got stuck in the traffic around Atlanta. Then there was snow in the hills of Tennessee. We got home at 4 a.m.
“My family was ‘suggesting’ or ‘nagging’ me to pull over,” he recalled. “You should always take 10 to 15 minute breaks every few hours while driving a long distance. A short nap will also do a lot of good.”
Lenhart said you should also use the car’s visor to help block the lights from an oncoming vehicle.
Speeding is also a cause of crashes, he said.
Of the crashes at night, senior citizens are involved in 8 percent of them and teenagers are involved in 11 percent of them,” said Lenhart.
“The older you get, the harder it is to drive at night,” he said.
He also encourages drivers to drive defensively and to report any erratic driving to the local law enforcement agencies.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.