By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Fewer people are dying in Cincinnati traffic accidents so far this year, and police say that's partly because they're catching more people speeding and driving drunk.
By the end of July, car wrecks in the city claimed 19 lives, according to police department statistics. That's down from 24 for the same period last year. Injury accidents dipped, too, by almost 11 percent, to 2,635.
The reductions come after a particularly deadly 2002, when the number of fatal wrecks more than tripled - from 13 in 2001 to 42 last year. Police supervisors studied them for common threads, but Chief Tom Streicher said they found their locations and causes varied too widely to conclude that there was something specific to blame, such as a problematic stretch of highway.
So the chief challenged his officers to step it up. He pointed out the connection between reduced traffic citations and fatalities and said they, of all people, should be concerned because they drive a lot and could be the victim of a bad driver.
And the citation numbers - issued on city streets and the parts of interstates 71, 74 and 75 that run through city limits - have jumped in every traffic category. From January through July, DUI arrests are up 33.5 percent over last year; seat-belt citations, 53 percent; speeding tickets from radar, 49 percent; overall moving violations - like running a red light - almost 46 percent.
The numbers still haven't bounced back to levels reached in 2000, the last year before officers staged an unofficial slowdown in response to what they perceived as a lack of support from City Hall after the April 2001 riots. The county has lost more than $1.5 million in fines since mid-2001.
Fifteen people were killed in traffic accidents in 2000.
"The best thing that we can do is keep aggressively enforcing these laws," Streicher said Monday.
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