‘We cannot arrest our way out of fatal crashes’: Initiative seeks to improve road safety

A partnership started last summer between multiple Dayton-area law enforcement departments aims to reduce fatal crashes and build community relationships.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Dayton and Trotwood police departments and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office’s SERVICE Initiative began in June and has plans of expanding to other communities. More information about its expansion is expected in the coming weeks.

“The program isn’t just about stopping motorists, writing citations and making arrests,” said OSHP Sgt. Dallas Root. “We cannot arrest our way out of fatal crashes. The biggest way that we are going to accomplish this mission as a team is by educating the public.”

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The partnership started as a way to reduce fatal crashes in the Dayton area. As officers increased their presence in some parts of the city, it showed them other areas of concern.

“That gives us more data and an idea of where to start working and identifying those trends as we move forward as a team,” Root said.

He also stressed the community element of the program By building trust in community members and partners, people are more comfortable coming to officers about what they’re seeing.

“It’s part of that community engagement that has been missing in the past that we are trying to wholeheartedly strengthen,” Root said. “Now people report to us. They feel confident saying in this area at this time we’re seeing these type of vehicles doing these things. Where really all we’ve had to rely on is the experience of the officers working these areas and reactive data.”

Last year, there were nearly 12,830 crashes in Montgomery County, with 677 OVI-related and 61 fatal crashes, according to OSHP. So far this year, there have been 1,206 crashes, including 49 OVI-related crashes and seven fatal crashes.

Multiple area law enforcement agencies had additional patrols out of Super Bowl weekend. Troopers made seven OVI arrests, which Root said he counts as a win.

“Every OVI arrest you make is a potential reduction in a possible fatal accident,” he said.

Dayton Police Department Traffic Services Unit Supervisor Sgt. Gordon Cairns said the city also had seven OVI arrests over the weekend.

“One good thing I can report is the City of Dayton did not have any fatal traffic crashes over the weekend,” he said.

Six of the seven OVI arrests were women ranging from 24 to 36, which is unusual, Cairns said. The department isn’t sure if an increase in women arrested for OVI is a new trend, but police will be keeping an eye on it.

In 2021, there were 541 total OVI arrests in Dayton.

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“That is a significant increase,” Cairns said. “We want to stress that we take OVIs extremely serious and we are out looking for those that are intoxicated.”

Two of those crashes were double fatalities were investigators were able to trace back to the bars where the drivers had left.

“We’ve given training and classes in the past where if you’re a bartender and you notice someone is just beyond intoxicated or way into an intoxicated state you need to stop and cut them off because you can ultimately be held liable,” Cairns said.

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