The ‘Hundred deadliest days of Summer’ are here

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK The Ohio State Highway Patrol and AAA warn motorists to take care on the roads during the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer” from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Two recent accidents involving ATVs emphasize the danger.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The “100 Deadliest Days of Summer” are here, and the area has already had some grim reminders with two recent accidents involving all-terrain vehicles.

Lt. Brian McFarland of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s St. Clairsville post said troopers are on alert during this 100-day period starting with Memorial Day weekend and ending with the Labor Day holiday.

“Once the Memorial Day weekend comes into play, that’s what’s considered the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer. Basically with the holidays and the warm weather, everybody would like to go out and celebrate and enjoy the weekends,” he said.

He noted that two recent local accidents involved ATVs. Last week on Ohio 800, an ATV crash resulted in the death of a young woman. Another accident occurred May 29 and involved an ATV and a side-by-side on Saffell Road. That crash left seven injured, four of whom were transported by medical helicopters.

“The biggest factor is these vehicles are not meant to be on the roadways. People have the misconception that you go get a license plate and the vehicle’s allowed to go on the road. That’s not true at all. You can’t ride it on the township road, county road or state route in the state of Ohio. They’re just not equipped. They’re not safe enough, and obviously that’s what we’re seeing here with the past two weeks with these crashes. And when you put alcohol in the mix of vehicles that shouldn’t be out on the roadway, then we’ve got dangerous results that are happening,” McFarland said.

He said recent events have highlighted potential dangers of ATVs and side-by-sides.

“We’re going to continue to focus on them, because that resulted in a fatal, and now we have a serious injury crash,” he said. “We’ve got to try to prevent that, not just as law enforcement but as citizens of the state.”

McFarland also spoke about distracted driving and the number of motorcycles out on the roads in the summer.

“They always present a problem, not just for motorists but for everybody out there,” he said. “As a motorcycle driver you have to be more defensive today because there’s so many more cars on the road. There’s impaired driving, distracted drivers, and they may not see the motorcycle because it’s a smaller vehicle.”

He said there will also be an emphasis on highly traveled areas.

“U.S. 40 and Ohio 800 are very heavily trafficked areas for motorcycles, so we will continue to have a primary focus on those roads to prevent motorcycle crashes,” he said. “The amount of traffic violations and speedings going on on the interstates is still an issue that we continue to fight.”

McFarland said road construction is still ongoing on Interstate 70 and Ohio 7, with reduced speed zones.

“People are not acknowledging the reduced speed zones. They’re there for a reason — to help protect the people who are there working — and when they’re taking that down to a single lane of traffic, cars ain’t able to go 70 miles an hour. They have it down to 55 for that reason,” he said.

He also pointed out an apparent trend of high traffic speeds on the highway, with some traveling more than 100 mph.

“When I first started at the highway patrol, it was rare to get someone at that speed, but now it seems like we get 10 to 12 a month at the post. It’s just a constant battle that we continue to fight, and today everybody’s in a hurry to get somewhere,” he said. “That’s the biggest problem.”

However, since the state strengthened laws against distracted driving in early April, there seems to be a reduction in the use of cellphones and other devices while driving. There is a six-month “grace period” before the full penalties are enforced.

“It’s still a learning process for the motoring public, but we’re out there every day looking to educate the people on the new distracted driving law and hopefully when it goes into a primary effect in October, we’ll be able to sustain it and make the roadways a lot safer.”

McFarland added that July 4 is the next major holiday, but every day is treated as important with troopers watching for signs of impaired, distracted or reckless driving.

“We want to prevent crashes, and those are the three areas that cause that.”

McFarland asks anyone who observes reckless driving or ATVs on the roads to call #677.

Meanwhile, the American Automobile Association reports more than 7,300 people died nationwide in crashes involving teen drivers from 2012 to 2021 during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, nearly half of the number of those killed in teen-driver crashes for the entire remaining months out of the year. In 2021 alone, 900 people were killed in teen-driver crashes, an increase of nearly 6 percent from 851 the previous year. The number killed in 2021 also represents a greater than 25 percent increase over pre-pandemic 2019. Often, the victims are passengers, pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles, making the roads more dangerous for all.

AAA spokeswoman Kara Hitchens said the state is seeing an increase in motorists taking to the roads.

“We at AAA are seeing an increase in what we saw last year, not quite record-breaking but near record-breaking. For Ohio this (has been) the fourth busiest Memorial Day weekend, and we expect the same coming up with July 4 and Labor Day. We know that people are anxious to get back on the road and get back together with family and friends and make memories again,” she said, adding the statistics are based on information collected by AAA, which she did not have onhand.

Hitchens said the focus is on teenage drivers, who are more likely to be involved in accidents.

“Simply because they lack experience, not because they are bad people. They have less experience behind the wheel,” she said. “We always tell parents to get their teens as much chaperoned experience behind the wheel.”

Parents are also advised to model good driving behavior.

She also agrees that ATVs and motorcycles carry their own risks and riders must exercise caution.

“You’re highly exposed to serious injury if you have a crash,” she said.

Also, drivers are reminded to keep their cars maintained before embarking on lengthy trips.

“People aren’t maintaining their vehicles. They have some kind of mechanical issue, have a crash and it may cause a chain reaction crash with other vehicles.”


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