CLEVELAND — The Ohio State Highway Patrol Christmas holiday recap statewide report showed a reduction in overall traffic fatalities in 2021, the lowest level since 2017.
Sgt. Ray Santiago told News 5 the report indicates 7 traffic fatalities from Dec. 23 through Dec. 26, which is lower than the nine fatalities in 2020, 12 in 2019, and 11 in 2018 during the same four-day Christmas season time period.
Santiago said a 12% increase in DUI arrests and more motorists reporting impaired drivers were two principal reasons for the drop in fatal crashes this year.
Santiago encouraged drivers to dial #677 or dial 911 to report potentially dangerous driving.
"This is the lowest number of traffic fatalities that we’ve seen over the holiday period since beyond 2018," Santiago said. "When someone makes that phone call and we’re able to go out and look for this vehicle and attempt a traffic stop, that’s a crucial part of trying to keep everyone safe.”
“The one thing about that hotline that I don’t think anyone realizes is that we respond to those calls 100% of the time. There isn’t a call that comes through that simply just gets logged.”
Santiago pointed to a call to the Ohio Highway Patrol made by Tammy Schoonyan of Bellville on Dec. 27, when she reported erratic driving on I-71 northbound near Mansfield.
Schoonyan told News 5 the driver of a Dodge pick-up truck was weaving across multiple lanes so she called the patrol and gave a description and location of the vehicle.
The highway patrol reported troopers were able to track down the impaired driver, who led them on a chase and later crashed into McMullen Elementary School in Loudonville. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
“He was in front of me, I saw him going erratically and I tried to stay back, I was afraid to go around him," Schoonyan said. You should report impaired drivers, it doesn’t take that long, you’re on the phone, I have a car phone, so I didn’t have to have a phone in my hand.”
"Definitely if you see anybody driving erratically please dial the #677, it could save a life and it could possibly be your own. Please don’t drink and drive, call a designated driver, call somebody, but just don’t get in the vehicle and get behind the wheel.”
The Ohio Highway Patrol Christmas report also shows a 51% reduction in vehicle crashes of any kind in 2021, compared to 2020.