The Mahoning County OVI Task Force announced the start of a new year of continuing its mission to make roads safe. This year, the task force received an increase in funding.
"This year, our grant award was for $223,502.19, which is close to $70,000 more than in the last two years," said Canfield Police Assistant Chief Scott Weamer.
He said the grant that funds the OVI Task Force comes from the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is administered through the Ohio Department of Public Safety's Office of Criminal Justice Services and is to be used for traffic safety education and enforcement.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Susan Viars of Mahoning Safe Communities and Canfield police Assistant Chief Scott Weamer got together on Friday to announce the start of a new year for the Mahoning County OVI Task Force. Viars is showing the magnetic decals that represent “Don’t text and drive,” “Stay sober or get pulled over,” “Click it or ticket,” and motorcycle safety.
"The funds will be used for equipment and labor costs to conduct saturation patrols, checkpoints and blitz patrols," Weamer said. "Our goals will remain the same as we try to reduce the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents in the county."
He said in the 2013 grant year that runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, the OVI Task Force conducted 13 sobriety checkpoints and contacted 6,122 vehicles. Of that number, 38 impaired drivers were removed from the roadways.
The saturation patrols that have multiple cruisers focusing on one area, made 1,710 traffic stops and removed 40 impaired drivers. Besides the 78 OVI arrests from the two programs, officers also caught 138 drivers who were driving while under suspension, made 68 seatbelt citations, and made 12 felony arrests.
He said the impact has been seen in the number of fatalities that were recorded in the county. In 2011, there was no funding for the OVI Task Force and there were 24 fatal crashes, of which 11 were alcohol related. In 2012, the funding returned and there were 23 fatal crashes with eight of them being alcohol related. For the 2013 year that ended Sept. 30, there were 16 fatalities and only three involved alcohol.
"That is a 33 percent reduction in fatalities and OVI fatalities," Weamer said. "We're having a positive impact."
He said the grant is hosted by the Canfield Police Department, and is not the only traffic grant coming to the area. Mahoning Safe Communities also received a grant to help educate the public on a variety of traffic safety issues. The grant was for $63,947 to help with educating the public on things like texting while driving, drunk driving, seatbelt safety and motorcycle safety. The organization's grant administrator Susan Viars said a lot will be used to educate younger drivers.
"We work a lot with the schools and teenage drivers," Viars said. "We are more the education side of this partnership."
Like the OVI Task Force grant, this grant also runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 20. It allows Viars to put on educational programs in schools and at the Canfield Fair where she used drunk goggles and a corn hole game to show drivers what being impaired is like.
The Mahoning Safe Communities grant is hosted by the New Middletown Police Department.