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OSHP urging motorists to buckle up this holiday season

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Ohio State Highway Patrol expects an increase in holiday traffic even amid the coronavirus pandemic, and troopers are urging motorists to always wear their safety belts when behind the wheel.

Lt. Maurice Waddell of the St. Clairsville Post said with the holiday season coming upon us, it is important for residents to drive safely and always buckle up.

“Once the holidays start coming, we have a lot more people traveling and more crashes happen, more fatal crashes happen. We just want to push the message out there to take a minute and buckle up, drive sober, designate a driver, don’t be distracted,” he said.

Waddell said fatal crashes tend to trend upward during the holiday season.

“This time of year, we begin to see a trend and start to see a spike in fatal crashes throughout the state,” he said. “This year, we are at highest for unbelted deaths across the state in the past five years.”

Waddell said last year, 22 people were killed in fatal crashes in Belmont and Monroe counties.

There have been seven fatal crashes to date this year, five in Belmont County and two in Monroe County, he said.

“A quarter of those (fatalities) were not wearing their safety belt,” he said.

Although Ohio’s safety belt usage rate has increased to 85.9 percent, it is still below the national average, he said.

“Your safety belt is vital to surviving a crash,” Waddell said. “By using safety belts, you are dramatically increasing your odds of surviving and reducing injury in crashes. Make it a habit to always buckle up every time you get in a vehicle.”

Waddell said motorists utilizing a safety belt is the “easiest” thing a person can do to protect themselves in a crash.

Ohio’s safety belt law remains a secondary violation; however, troopers will continue a zero-tolerance enforcement when motorists are stopped for other violations and are found to not be wearing their safety belt, Waddell said.

“We, as an agency, for the entire month of November, our No. 1 focus is safety belt and reducing crashes in our area. It’s zero-tolerance. If someone is stopped and not wearing a seatbelt, they are going to be cited,” he said.

The OSHP is encouraging everyone to buckle up for every trip. Troopers will be working federally funded overtime hours during the Thanksgiving holiday to ensure motorists are buckled up.

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