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Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Traffic safety efforts pay off for sheriff's office

By Shelley Grieshop
The Auglaize County Sheriff's Office was one of two law enforcement agencies in Ohio to win a new vehicle this year for encouraging motorists to buckle up.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (ODPS) Ohio Traffic Safety Office on Tuesday held their sixth annual car give-away in Columbus and awarded new Ford Crown Victorias to the local sheriff's office, as well as the Guernsey County Sheriff's Office in eastern Ohio. The two agencies were chosen from among 32 qualifying agencies across the state.
Auglaize County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Dunnigan and retired Deputy Paul Eisert attended the event as representatives for the sheriff's office, according to Sheriff Al Solomon.
"Paul worked on the program the last four years and Mark took over when he retired," Solomon said.
The "Click It or Ticket" campaign used by the local sheriff's office also is followed by numerous other law enforcement agencies in Ohio including the Celina Police Department, which was awarded new cruisers by the ODPS in 2005 and 2006.
Agencies must document their work with the seat belt campaign or the "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest." campaign and submit it to the ODPS to be in the running each year for one of the new cars. This year, 870 law enforcement agencies were involved in one of the two campaigns. Although only 32 were chosen for the final draw, the remaining agencies received traffic safety equipment such as radar guns or video cameras, for their efforts.
The Auglaize County Sheriff's Office qualified for the final draw last year but did not win.
A total of $300,000 in safety equipment was distributed by the ODPS this year. The funds for the giveaway come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which funds numerous prevention programs.
In 2007, there were 1,257 deaths on Ohio's roads. So far in 2008, there have been 153 fewer deaths compared to the same time period in 2007. The national goal is to reduce highway fatalities to less than one fatality per 100 million vehicle miles traveled by 2011.
Solomon said throughout the year deputies erect signs, give talks in schools and to organizations, and perform other activities to get the "buckle up" message to the community.
"We don't just warn people and give citations," he said.
Several local food outlets donate gift certificates to the program, which deputies use to award residents of all ages for safe driving habits, he added.
"We couldn't do it without their help," Solomon said.
Work has already begun for next year's competition with the sheriff's office placing their focus on the prevention of drunk driving, he said. The agency's administrative assistants, Mary Logan and Glenna Schmidt, continue to document and compile the efforts of the staff in hopes of returning to Columbus for a back-to-back win, just like the Celina Police Department.
Because funds are tight in nearly every county department across the state, Solomon said he is delighted to have a free, brand new car to add to the fleet.
"It sure helps the budget," he added.
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