Spike in fatal crashes by drunk or drugged drivers causing concern in Summit County

Summit Co. sees spike in fatal OVI crashes
Posted at 4:48 PM, Feb 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-16 17:34:14-05

More than half of the fatal crashes in Summit County last year involved a driver who was either under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to new statistics released by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

In 2016, there were 40 fatal accidents throughout the county. 21 of those crashes were OVI-related, with 12 of the cases attributed to drugs.

Information provided by OSHP showed lower numbers of fatal crashes between 2011-2015. The closest to the 2016 statistics was 2011, which had 32 fatal crashes and 19 related to drugs or alcohol.

On Easter Sunday of 2016, 17-year-old Tricia Powell was killed by a suspected drunk driver along I-76 in Akron. The teen, who was a junior at Ellet High School, was in an Oldsmobile Alero that had broken down. A man driving a Chevrolet Equinox slammed into her. The girl died at an Akron hospital.

Charles Queer, of Tallmadge, had a blood alcohol level more than double the legal limit, police said. He's scheduled to go on trial in Summit County Common Pleas Court in May.

Tricia's mother, Kelly Grady, told News 5 that she continues to feel heartbroken every day.

"It has devastated us. I can't sleep sometimes and sometimes I can't get out of bed," Grady said. "Seeing the life knocked out of her like that, it's pretty much knocked part of the life out of me."

Inspector Bill Holland said "drugged driving" is also becoming a major concern with more and more drivers overdosing on pain pills or heroin.

"Even if you don't drink alcohol, if you don't take heroin or take prescription drugs, if you get on the roadway, there's people out there that are and you're as risk," Holland said.

Holland said the department uses about $465,000 in federal grants to address the OVI problems. The money is used for community education, sobriety checkpoints and increased patrols.

"Any fatalities are alarming. We just don't want to see that," Holland said. "As a law enforcement agency, do everything you can to put a stop to it."

As the one-year anniversary of Tricia's death approaches, her mother hopes the tragic story convinces others to stop drinking and driving.

"Just imagine if it was your kid and it's really all you should have to do."