Cincinnati-area road deaths caused by negligence or recklessness are on the rise, a Cincinnati Enquirer analysis of police and court records shows. Last year, county prosecutors pressed vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter charges against 26 drivers blamed in fatal wrecks. That’s three times the number in 2000. Since then, 107 drivers have been charged with causing the road deaths of 111 people in Hamilton County alone. Negligent driving may cause half of the 42,000 highway fatalities in the country each year. “This is the homicide that can happen to anyone,” says Lt. Tom Butler, who supervises the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office traffic unit. “All it takes is a split second.”
Of 26 Hamilton County drivers charged last year with vehicular homicide, 22 have been convicted. Nine have gone to prison for terms ranging from two to 80 years. Four others spent time in jail, and eight were put on probation only. Sentencing for one is pending. Ohio law says vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter charges must be brought in every fatal crash where a driver is at fault. Police and traffic officials say the increase in criminal road cases isn’t because of stricter enforcement, but because of increasing lawlessness on the highway.