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Total Ohio traffic deaths likely higher for 2014 compared with record low in previous year

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Preliminary data indicate the number of Ohio traffic deaths for the past year probably won't be another record low and might go back above 1,000.

The State Highway Patrol reports 973 fatalities for the year, with at least 37 more deaths being reviewed that haven't been confirmed as traffic fatalities. As a result, it's possible the total could be 1,010 or more once reports are completed and officials account for any New Year's Eve crashes.

Ohio had 990 traffic deaths during 2013, the first time since record-keeping began in 1936 that the number was under 1,000, according to the patrol's statistics. It had peaked in the late 1960s with more than 2,700 deaths in one year.

It is difficult to pinpoint why some years have more fatal crashes than others or to say that it's a relatively good year when 1,000 lives were lost, but the agency still sees progress. Overall, the number had been trending downward in recent years, with a five-year average of 1,046 between 2009 and 2013, said Lt. Craig Cvetan, a patrol spokesman.

One factor that troopers credit is an increased focus on offenses that increase the chances of injuries or deaths, such as impaired driving and not wearing a seat belt. Citations in those categories increased in 2014 compared with the previous year, as did the total number of stops, crash investigations and enforcement for drug violations and driving under suspension.

"We encourage officers to take enforcement on those violations that we know cause crashes, and that people are being injured and killed because of," Cvetan said.

Troopers arrested more than 24,500 people for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 2014. More than 107,000 people — or about 10,000 more than in the previous year — were cited for not wearing seatbelts.

During 2014, Ohio logged nearly 900 fatal crashes, mostly single fatalities. No single crash was blamed for more than three deaths.

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