‘It has been on the rise’: Officials are seeking solutions for this particular kind of deadly crash

Austin Boulevard at State Route 741 saw the most crashes in the region from 2014-17, according to a study by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
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Austin Boulevard at State Route 741 saw the most crashes in the region from 2014-17, according to a study by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Distracted driving crashes are becoming more common in the region, and more than a third involve a driver 25 or younger, new research shows.

Of the nearly 3,500 distracted driving crashes reported in the Miami Valley from 2014 to 2016, the driver in more than 1,200 of them was between the ages of 16 to 25, according to a report by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.

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“It has been on the rise,” MVRPC Executive Director Brian Martin said.

Distracted driving includes the use of cell phones and other distractions. It isn’t just a local problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, approximately 481,000 drivers text while on the road every day.

Distracted driving accounted for 3,450 deaths across the nation in 2016.

Martin said the MVRPC has taken out advertising space to attempt to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

“You can tell people to put on their seatbelt and pay attention, but as soon as they leave the driveway that may not happen,” he said. “Ultimately, the young driver is responsible for the vehicle they are operating.”

Paying attention to the road is key to safe driving. Sharon Fife, the president of the D&D Driving School in Kettering, said drivers should always be aware of what’s around them.

“You shouldn’t just look at the car in front of you; you should be able to see all the lanes ahead of you,” she said.

Fife said a crackdown on texting and driving could make Ohio a safer place to drive.

Youth are disproportionately involved in crashes, accounting for about 20,000 of the 58,581 total crashes from 2014 to 2016, according to the report. That same age group was also most likely to be involved in unrestrained single-occupant crashes, accounting for 993 of 2,090 crashes. Seniors aged 66 and over were also involved in a high rate of crashes compared to their numbers on the road.

On average, a crash occurred every 27 minutes, and a fatal crash occurred about once every five days, according to the study. Fatal crashes were more common when the driver wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, while 35 percent of the fatalities involved alcohol.

Common contributing factors were failure to control, failure to yield and following too close, which accounted for nearly a third of the crashes.

The Miami Valley’s crash rate of 2.3 crashes per million vehicle miles traveled was above the national average of 2.0, but below the state average of 2.6.

Martin said the commission would use the report to determine what areas need improvements, and to focus driver education efforts across the region.

“Ultimately, this data will be used to justify future transportation improvements,” he said.