Law enforcement officers throughout Ohio plan to focus on decreasing the amount of distracted and impaired drivers on the roadway after new statistics show a large increase in traffic fatalities.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, figures from the beginning of the year to Dec. 1 show 925 traffic fatalities in Ohio, a number that totals seven more than a year ago at that time. The state last year had 990 total traffic fatalities, which was the lowest numbers in recent years.
The unofficial figures also show 111 people were killed in car crashes in Ohio last month, which is compared to 73 people who were killed in car crashes in the state last November. This alarming 52 percent increase makes November the deadliest month of the year, according to the article.
State Highway Patrol Col. Paul A. Pride said troopers will continue to crack down on impaired and distracted driving, which accounts for about 35 percent of the traffic deaths, according to the article. Although an OVI is a serious offense, a drunk driver could face more serious charges if he or she harms another person, or unfortunately causes a fatality.
Aggravated vehicular assault occurs when a person operates a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration greater than the legal limit and causes serious physical harm to another person, according to chapter 4511 of the Ohio Revised Code.
In these traffic cases, the serious physical harm could be caused to an unborn baby. It also is important to note that the injured person does not have to be in another vehicle for it to be considered aggravated vehicular assault.
For example, if a drunk driver crashes into a pedestrian or a cyclist and causes serious physical harm to either of them, the intoxicated driver still could face charges for aggravated vehicular assault. These charges could be a felony of the second or third degree.
If a person is intoxicated behind the wheel and causes the death of someone else, he or she could face aggravated vehicular homicide charges. These charges also could apply if a drunk driver causes the unlawful termination of another person's pregnancy. This could be a felony of the first or second degree.
The penalties associated with these offenses vary based on a variety of factors, including whether the driver had previous OVI-related convictions, if serious injury or death was caused and the level of intoxication at the time of the incident. Penalties generally could include jail or prison time, fines, loss of driving privileges or an interlock ignition device.
Additionally, distracted driving, such as texting, can cause serious accidents. Texting while driving currently is a secondary offense, but if it results in an accident a driver can be charged. This could mean additional fines and driving restrictions.
The best ways to avoid a DUI or any other OVI-related incident during the holiday season are to designate a driver or choose not to drink. Avoid distracted driving and practice safe and attentive driving habits. Your safety and the safety of others are important.