XENIA — As more drivers hit the roads this summer, regional experts are urging motorists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians to focus on traffic safety.
Cindy Antrican, public affairs manager for AAA, asked local drivers to put their phones down and avoid distractions as they head back to work.
“They need to sharpen their skills again because a lot of us haven’t been driving very much,” Antrican said during the May 21 Steering Toward Safety discussion, hosted by Greene County Safe Communities.
Antrican reported that distracted driving kills nine people every day and injures 1,000, adding that it is one of the most under-reported causes of vehicle crashes.
For teen drivers, the risk goes up. Fifty-nine percent of teen driver crashes involve some form of distraction, Antrican said.
“Yes, they are likely to pick up a phone and text or whatever, but the truth is, during this time of a lot of changes and stress — keeping your mind on the road, plain and simple, is just as important,” said Teresa Carper from Ohio SADD. “If your mind isn’t on the road, you are distracted.”
Traffic crashes, according to Carper, remains the number one cause of death in teens nationwide. She refers to this season the “100 deadliest days of summer.”
“We often worry about our teen drivers driving for the first time in winter, and yes that is a concern, but actually the worst time of the year for a teen to be on the road is actually in the summer months,” Carper said. “There’s more daylight hours, they have a lot more time to be on the road … your chances of being in a crash go up.”
Unsafe speed continues to be the top crash violation across the state, Ohio State Highway Patrol Xenia Post Commander Lt. Matt Schmenk added.
As part of the Click It or Ticket campaign this month, troopers are out on the roadway encouraging drivers to wear their safety belts.
In 2020 in Greene County, 25 percent of people involved in fatal crashes were not wearing seat belts, Schmenk reported. This compares to 66 percent in Clark, 62 in Montgomery and 66 in Madison counties.
In 2019, Ohio observed a safety belt usage rate of 85.9 percent, Schmenk said. But Ohio is still below the national average of 90.7 percent.
“In the last two years, we had 1,300 motorists that were killed in vehicle crashes where safety belts were available but were not in use,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want everyone to get home safe, and using a safety belt is the easiest thing they can do to protect themselves, their families, or friends if they’re involved in a traffic crash.”
Kevin Doherty, medical director of the emergency room at Madison Health in London, said the first thing he asks a medic when they arrive is if that patient had a seatbelt on.
“It’s the risk that everything else falls under,” Doherty said. “Knowing whether or not they had a seatbelt on is number one.”
The doctor also spoke about other trauma he’s been seeing recently, and offered safety tips for residents to take in the months ahead.
He advised drivers who see flooding and have any question about it to not drive through it but instead slow down and turn around.
When the electricity goes out and a generator is in use, Doherty reminds homeowners that the exhaust needs to be out in the open, not in a garage or basement
The doctor also encouraged citizens to learn how to identify active bleeding and apply a tourniquet through the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma online courses.
“A person can bleed out in 2 to 5 minutes. Sometimes it takes a medic 7 to 10 minutes to get to a crash scene,” Doherty said, adding that 22 percent of people that die bleeding in traumas could’ve been saved with simple techniques.
Doherty is also concerned about the decrease of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and stroke cases coming into the hospital, due to people staying home.
“Emergency departments are open. They’re probably the safest with all the risk management that we have now. Don’t ignore those signs and symptoms,” he said.
The same goes for other traumas.
“If you’ve been in a motor vehicle collision, and if you’re fearful of going to the emergency department, don’t be. It’s very safe,” Doherty said. “Don’t be afraid to come in. Don’t let the coronavirus scare you. We’re open.”
Call 937-502-4498 or follow Anna Bolton, Reporter on Facebook.