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Thanksgiving traffic heavy, but safe

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Traffic is tight at Ohio 7 near Martins Ferry after Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The Ohio State Highway Patrol reported no fatalities occurred over the holiday in the local area and said troopers and will continue to be on lookout for impaired drivers.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers covering the local area reported no fatalities from Wednesday through Sunday, and troopers will remain out in force through the remainder of the year.

During recent months, Ohio Valley highways have been at the scene of several serious or fatal accidents, with the most recent resulting in five fatalities from a crash on Ohio 7 on Nov. 24. However, the recent Thanksgiving holiday weekend was a comparatively safe one, with no fatal crashes.

According to reports from the Associated Press, early data from the highway patrol shows 15 deaths in 13 crashes on roads statewide, more than doubling the 2018 report of seven people killed in crashes during the Thanksgiving weekend. Statewide statistics remain to be finalized.

At the St. Clairsville post of the highway patrol, Sgt. Brian McFarland said officers were on high alert throughout the area of Belmont, Monroe, Guernsey, Harrison, Muskingum and Noble counties and around Steubenville.

“We had 29 OVI arrests in our district as a whole,” he said. “We handled 14 injury crashes and 88 property-damage crashes. We stopped a total of 1,714 cars, and we gave 588 warnings and 602 citations were issued, and 172 of them was for seat belts.”

He said enforcement efforts based at the St. Clairsville post itself yielded 272 stops, two OVI arrests, 12 seat belt citations and 85 tickets issued.

McFarland said the post’ officers were once again out in force with federal funding paying their overtime hours during the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday’s shopping rush.

“For our district, we didn’t have any fatal crashes,” McFarland said. “There were guys working federal overtime, but nothing that we haven’t seen in years past as far as the traffic. We only had one injury crash in that time frame. … Nothing out of the ordinary.

“No significant changes in anything from the years past.”

He said the patrol will continue working through December with a special focus on removing impaired drivers from the roads.

“For the rest of the year, that will be a big focus for us. We’ll continue to utilize federal overtime all the way through the first of the year, with Christmas and New Year’s coming up,” McFarland said. “Between now and the end of the year there’s several companies and businesses that may have a Christmas party. It could be during the week, it could be on the weekend. You’re going to see more people going out celebrating through the rest of this month, and that’s going to be our main focus.”

McFarland said the coming winter weather could further exacerbate conditions.

“We’ve been fortunate so far. We haven’t really had much bad weather, but there’s always that chance of it coming in, and then with the construction in the area, that could also create some instances where impaired drivers could create some issues,” he said.

McFarland said a lack of seat belt use is another factor in road-related injuries. That also is a concern statewide. Of the 15 fatalities reported on state roadways, two were pedestrians and two were not wearing seat belts. Two of the deaths also involved impaired driving, according to the patrol.

Troopers said they arrested 389 people for operating a vehicle while impaired and 172 for drugs. A total of 1,002 seat belt and 89 distracted driving violations also were issued.

“The lack of safety belt usage remains a significant problem,” said the patrol’s superintendent, Col. Richard Fambro.

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