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Athens County one of few to see increase in traffic fatalities in 2011

Although more than half of Ohio’s 88 counties saw a decrease in traffic fatalities in 2011, Athens County was one of only 21 that saw an increase of two or more.

There were eight traffic fatalities in Athens County during 2011, three more than in 2010. There was an increase of three deaths in only 12 of the state’s counties, according to a news release from the Ohio Highway Patrol.

“The increase is not really unusual. The numbers tend to fluctuate from year to year,” said Ohio Highway Patrol Sgt. Thomas Holbert, who works at the Athens Patrol Post.

There were two double fatality accidents in 2011 — one near the Movies 10 in Nelsonville and the other near U.S. Route 50, Holbert said.

“The accidents were spread throughout the county and were in no particular area,” he said.

Holbert said two of the accidents were alcohol-related and two were the result of people not wearing seat belts.

Thirty-eight counties saw a decrease of more than two fatalities, including Hocking and Perry Counties.

The number of traffic fatalities also increased across the state during New Year’s weekend, Dec. 30 to Jan. 2. There were 13 fatalities in 2011, up from 10 in 2010, according to an Ohio Highway Patrol release.

New Year’s is always a high priority weekend for the Ohio Highway Patrol, said Lt. Anne Ralston. She said that New Year’s and other high priority weekends, such as the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, have many alcohol-related accidents. The Ohio Highway Patrol saw a two-percentage point increase in OVI arrests in 2011.

There were 169 traffic incidents in Athens County during New Year’s weekend, but the Athens Highway Patrol Post only responded to five minor accidents and only made two OVI arrests.

“We had a pretty slow weekend because the campus is pretty quiet around New Year’s,” Holbert said.

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