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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award

The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke

2004 Winner: Portage County Safe Communities

GHSA Highway Safety Awards

Portage County Safe Communities Staff pose with crash test dummies.
Portage County Safe Communities Staff pose with crash test dummies.

Portage County Safe Communities (PCSC) seamlessly integrated the Ravenna Police Department and Robinson Memorial Hospital in a successful effort to address the unique traffic safety issues Portage County faces. The county, located in Northeast Ohio, includes heavily traveled sections of Interstate 76 and 80. Along with state highways, all 226.81 miles of highways in Portage County are frequented by Six Flag's Amusement Park traffic, Kent State University students, as well as motorists traveling to Cleveland, Akron, and Canton. In the five years prior to PCSC there was an average of 24 fatal crashes and 1,601 injuries on Portage County highways.

The program aimed to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries through local, county and state collaboration. The campaign was a combination of overtime enforcement, media awareness, educational campaigns and community involvement. PCSC educated the community and especially school children about safety belt use usage, impaired driving, speeding, aggressive driving, and inattentive driving.

One successful program, None For Under 21, taught Portage County high school students about traffic safety, including an emphasis on the effects of alcohol. Conducted at Six Flags, the program began with a mock crash, then "Beat the Clock," a game about seat belt use, and concluded in Batman Stadium with speakers discussing the negative effects of alcohol on their lives.

PCSC addressed safety belt use through two programs, "What's Holding You Back?" and the "Buckle Children Bib Program." PCSC also set up a DUI Task Force to limit impaired driving. This enforcement effort, as well as billboards and radio PSAs, helped to influence the driving habits of the many outsiders traveling on Portage County roads.

The effects of PCSC are significant: in just a year, the fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled on Portage County roads was reduced from 1.62 to 1.02. In 2003 there were only 16 fatal crashes and 1284 injuries, reductions of 31 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

The campaign's success comes as a result of a broad spectrum of partners: the Ravenna Police Department, Robinson Memorial Hospital, Portage County Prosecutors Office, local media, health services, the Ohio Department of Transportation, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Six Flags Amusement Park and Goodyear Tires. PCSC demonstrated how effectively uniting multiple organizations can improve traffic safety.

For more information please contact Lorrie J. Laing at llaing@dps.state.oh.us.