Memorial Day weekend presents one of the biggest traveling weekends across the country. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP), in conjunction with AAA and SAFE Delaware County Coalition, reminded motorists to be safe and wear their seat belts with a “Click It or Ticket” kickoff event held at the I-71 South rest area just outside Delaware on Friday.
“We’re kicking off one of the busiest holidays periods of the year,” said Kimberly Schwind, a AAA spokesperson. “We’re expecting the highest number of travelers across the country since 2013 … last year, we had 37,000 people who died on roadways across the United States, and wearing your seat belt is the single most effective way to reduce the risk of injury and death if you are in a crash. It’s really the best defense against destructive and aggressive driving. It’s really important that we talk to the travelers here today that are embarking on their summer travels.”
Schwind said the I-71 southbound rest area was chosen in large part because it is the last rest area for over 60 miles on I-71 South, making it a popular stop for travelers.
According to a press release from AAA, an estimated 1.5 million Ohioans will hit the roads this holiday weekend, which is an increase of 4.6 percent from last year. Three out of five people killed on the roads during the 2017 Memorial Day weekend were not wearing an available seat belt. In total, OSHP issued 7,795 safety belt and 157 child safety seat citations.
During the 2017 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “Click It Or Ticket” campaign, which ran from May 22 through June 4, 13 0f 25 people killed in Ohio were not wearing a safety belt. The number of citations for seat belt and child safety seat violations rose to 11,205 and 221, respectively.
Genoa Township Officer Ryan Miller re-emphasized the increase in law enforcement presence on the roads this weekend, and he noted seat belt violations will be a particular focal point.
Active construction projects may also impact traffic and increase dangers on the road, but ODOT said it will try to reduce their impact as much as possible through the holiday weekend. AAA said 4,891 work zone crashes happened last year, 119 of which resulted in serious injuries and 19 led to deaths.
“This is a great event to remind people to buckle up and be safe,” ODOT Press Secretary Matt Bruning said. “We’ve tried to do as much as we can to pull back as many barrels, open up as many lanes for Memorial Day travels as we can. But that’s not always possible in every situation. We’re really focusing on telling people to slow down and pay extra attention when you’re in a work zone.”
Bruning said ODOT sees a 16 percent increase in traffic volume throughout the Memorial Day weekend, the fourth highest among all holidays. He said the most important factor is patience and travelers allowing themselves plenty of time to get where they are going.
Motorists who will be traveling throughout Ohio this weekend are encouraged to download ODOT’s OHGO app. The app features construction updates, traffic speeds, and traffic cameras, allowing travelers to map out their journey through the state.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.