County sees increase in fatal crashes


Hancock County prosecutor Brent Eaton is asking drivers to stop getting behind the wheel impaired.

HANCOCK COUNTY — State officials say over 200 Hoosiers were killed in car crashes during the first three months of 2022. Data from the Indiana Department of Transportation states a 17% increase in traffic fatalities compared to the same time period over the last five years.

The statistics, which showed 209 Hoosiers died on state roads through March, has law enforcement and the county’s prosecutor’s office concerned, particularly because summer is here, and they know more vehicles are on county roads with some driving impaired.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton said he wants residents of Hancock County to put an emphasis on driving safely and driving sober this summer due to the fact statistics show when people don’t, people die.

“Data shows that the number of traffic fatalities and injury crashes increases during the summer, so now is the time to emphasize safe driving,” Eaton said.

According to statistics from INDOT, the county had 1,971 total crashes in 2019 with 12 resulting in fatalities. Some 7% were speed related and some 2% were alcohol and impaired related. There were 957 accidents on rural roads and 733 accidents in Greenfield. The report shows accident totals increased during the warmer months.

In 2020, the sheriff’s department recorded six deaths from traffic crashes and five fatalities in 2021. Hancock county is not large enough to have a full-time crash investigation team, so the county’s FACTeam is called to investigate deadly crashes.

The sheriff’s public information officer, Capt. Robert Harris, said when deadly accidents occur officers are pulled in from their time off, other work details and even their patrol shifts, and that can cause a strain on the team members and patrol operations.

In order to combat more traffic accidents this year, Harris said deputies are working increased traffic patrols to hopefully reduce the number of crashes in Hancock County.

“With the rapid growth of homes and businesses in Hancock County, the number of cars on the road is increasing,” Harris said.

Plus, Harris said the majority of fatal crashes have drugs, alcohol or distracted driving as a contributing factor. It’s why law enforcement wants to remind people to remain attentive while driving, wear seat belts, and never consume drugs or alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

Law enforcement and state officials attribute the increase in crashes to motorists driving faster, fewer drivers and passengers wearing seat-belts and impaired driving, according to data from INDOT.

“Doing simple things like slowing down while driving and making sure everyone in the car is wearing a seat belt could end up saving lives,” Eaton said. “We’re hoping getting something out to remind drivers to slow down and be aware might save some lives.”

With the start of summer, now is also a good time to remember the importance of using a designated driver or a ride sharing app, officials suggest. Law enforcement tends to see predictable spikes in drunk and drugged driving incidents and fatalities during the warm weather months and holiday weekends.

“All of us need to be more cognizant when we are out on the roadways, especially during the summer with so many people heading out on vacations or visiting family,” Eaton said. “Don’t become another statistic and don’t throw your life away by speeding or driving while under the influence.”

Now is also a good reminder to say something if you see something, law enforcement says.

“If you observe another motorist driving recklessly, call law enforcement,” Eaton said. “If you know someone is under the influence, do not let them get behind the wheel.”

By working together, local officials hope everyone can make sure everybody has a safe and enjoyable summer and fall.