More than half of the deadly crashes in Montgomery County the past three years have involved impaired drivers and this has law enforcement concerned.
About 51% of the fatal crashes this year have been related to driving under the influence, according to the Ohio Highway State Patrol. It has been the same story the past two years. In 2020, 59% and in 2019 58% of the fatal crashes were related to impaired driving.
“It is imperative that the motoring public are accountable when they get behind the wheel,” said Sgt. Dallas Root, assistant commander of the Dayton Post. “When you drink and drive, you’re playing a game of chance.”
The number of fatal crashes so far this year in Montgomery County also is cause for concern, Root said.
There have been 47 deadly crashes to date. In 2019, there were 42 the entire year.
In 2020, the county saw 63 fatal crashes, Root said.
Root said many of the fatal crashes and many of the crashes involving drunken driving are within the city of Dayton. He said he believes that’s explained by how many bars and people reside within the city’s limits.
Michelle Moser, coordinator for the Montgomery County OVI Task Force, said she believes part of the issue is people going out to drink but not using Uber or Lyft services to go home due to fears around COVID-19.
Those rideshare apps also have seen a dramatic price increase, she said.
Moser said people also may have changed their drinking habits because of changes to how people work and spend their time.
“People are working from home, they go out because they need to socialize and it changes everything,” she said.
Police won’t be changing the way they enforce laws against drunken driving, but Root said law enforcement can’t arrest their way out of the problem.
“The way to stop it is to educate people and make them realize the long-term, down the road consequences of what happens when you drive impaired, you’re involved in a crash and you kill somebody or yourself,” Root said.
Last year, Ohio highway crashes and fatalities involving impaired drivers increased even as fewer motorists were on roadways during the pandemic, the patrol said.
The state saw 13,136 OVI-related highway crashes in 2020, resulting in 685 deaths. That’s compared to 13,047 OVI-related crashes in Ohio in 2019, when 597 people were killed, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
The Montgomery County OVI Task Force and Montgomery County Safe Communities announced Friday it received a $224,999 grant that helps support enforce policies against drunken driving across the state.
Last weekend, OSHP worked with Indiana State Police and Pennsylvania State Police to focus on speed, safety belt and drunken driving enforcement on Interstate 70, the patrol said.
During the initiative, 323 people in Ohio were issued citations including 297 for speed and 21 for seat belt violations, OSHP said. Five people were cited for OVI.
Staff Writer Eric Schwartzberg contributed to this report.