By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — Traffic fatalities in 2017 in Shelby County and across the United States are a concern for Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, who addressed the issue during his weekly interview.

“In America there were 40,000-plus fatalities,” said Lenhart. “That’s an increase from 2016 and 2015. There were 499 fatalities in Ohio and nine in Shelby County.”

The Sheriff’s Office, he said, handled seven of the fatalities. One-third of the fatalities dealt with the person not wearing a seat belt. Another third involved impaired driving, while one fatality found texting involved. Speeding was the cause of one-third of the crashes and one fatality was weather-related.

Deputies were busy in 2017 investigating 604 crashes which were on public property. There were 109 injury crashes and 17 people were ejected from the vehicle during the crash.

“There were 616 traffic citations in 2017,” said Lenhart. “There were 37 arrests for driving under the influence.”

Deputies also issued 696 written warnings during the year.

Traffic citations, said Lenhart, were for failure to control (53), assured clear distance (22) and failure to yield at a stop sign (10).

“We had 256 deer accidents during the year,” he said.

High rates of speed on the county’s highway were also a concern to Lenhart. One instance found a driver going 134 mph on River Road. Another driver went 128 mph on Sidney Freyburg Road. Speeds of 107 mph were also recorded on Deam and Johnston Slagle roads.

“The people were going at unbelievable speeds,” said Lenhart.

He said a person going at that speed can’t stop in time if something crosses the road in front of them or if they hit a bump in the road.

Safety on the nation’s roads are a concern to everyone he said.

“The car manufacturers are encouraging people to buckle up and not to text and drive,” said Lenhart. “There are 264 million cars on the road in America. And that’s second in the world to China, who is first.”

He said the average age of a vehicle is 11 years old and 95 percent of Americans own cars, with 85 percent of them driving them to work. SUVs and mini vans are becoming more popular, which also raises the risk of more rollovers, said Lenhart.

“With an improving economy, the driver is going more miles to work and for pleasure,” said Lenhart.

He said law enforcement needs to address the accidents which are caused by distracted driving.

“The drivers are not focusing on what they are doing,” said Lenhart.

He encourages everyone to be a defensive driver. Be aware of your surroundings and what the other driver is doing, said Lenhart.

“Defensive driving has to be part of this,” said Lenhart. “You have to pay attention to other drivers. Be patient while you are driving. Start earlier (to reach your destination). If someone is weaving in front of me, I don’t want to go around them.”

Lenhart said passengers in a vehicle which has an impaired or distracted driver needs to speak up about the driving conditions.

“Have a designated driver,” said Lenhart. “Make sure everyone uses their seat belts. Don’t let the driver be distracted or be on a phone.”

Everyone, said Lenhart, should be wearing a seat belt when they are in a vehicle. Make sure the driver isn’t alcohol impaired and make sure they aren’t speeding.

By Melanie Speicher

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.