If you’re pulled over by an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper − particularly if it’s late at night, there is a good chance you’ll get off with a warning, according to analysis of traffic stop data.
Troopers let drivers off with warnings in 41.4% of 493,000 traffic stops made across Ohio between January and October 2023. More than 60% of drivers stopped between 10 p.m. and 3:59 a.m. got warnings.
That’s also the time of night when most people are cited for drunken driving. Of the 13,047 drivers pulled over in the 1 a.m. hour, troopers ticketed 1,774 for suspected drunken driving − 13.6%. On average, 8.7% of drivers pulled over between 11 p.m. and 3:59 a.m. received drunken driving tickets.
The takeaway is that troopers are pulling over lots of cars late at night, looking for impaired drivers.
Patrol Lt. Nate Dennis said road safety is a shared responsibility between law enforcement and drivers. “It’s also important for the motoring public to keep everyone safe by doing their part: by not driving impaired, not driving distracted, wearing their safety belts and obeying all traffic laws.”
The USA TODAY Network Ohio bureau ran the numbers on the traffic stop data and found:
Men are far more likely to be stopped than women. Male drivers accounted for 65% of the stops.
Black drivers account for 17.3% of the patrol traffic stops, which is disproportionate to the 13% of Blacks in Ohio’s population. But one in four vehicles pulled over by troopers is from out of state so the demographics of people traveling Ohio’s interstates may not match the state population.
White drivers are underrepresented in patrol traffic stop data when compared with census data. Whites account for 73.3% of stops, but 81% of Ohio’s population.
Distracted driving enforcement bump
Ohio’s new distracted driving law took effect in early April with warnings for the first six months. It took full effect in early October. Troopers made 5,475 distracted driving stops over 10 months, issuing 2,319 warnings and 3,156 tickets. The bulk of those stops occurred in April and October.
Ohio is putting up new signs enforcing the states new distracted driving law.
The new, upgraded law makes distracted driving − texting, checking social media, streaming videos − a primary offense. That means police no longer need to see another traffic infraction before making the stop.
The data only represent stops by state troopers and doesn’t include sheriff’s deputies and municipal police officers’ stops.
The new distracted driving law requires local law enforcement to record racial demographics of the drivers they stop for suspected distracted driving violations. The agencies must report that data to the Ohio Attorney General, which is required to deliver an annual report to state leaders. But the AG’s office said the local reports go into a special law enforcement portal that is exempt from the state public records laws.
Which counties had the most traffic stops?
Ohio’s two most populated counties had the most traffic stops – 16,771 for Franklin and 15,309 for Cuyahoga. But the patrol made just 4,295 stops in Hamilton County, which is well below the 10,000-plus stops made in Summit, Butler, Stark, Lorain and Warren counties.
The patrol’s only post in Hamilton County is home to a motorcycle unit, which typically only works daylight hours. Most of the warnings are issued in the nighttime hours.
What days are troopers most likely to make stops?
The highest stop day in the first 10 months of 2023 was May 26, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend when troopers pulled over 7,609 drivers. The four days around Memorial Day weekend account for the top 10 stop days in 2023.
The four days around Labor Day turned out to be among the top 10 stop days. Not to be left out: July 3rd and 4th also landed in the top 10.
Around those three holiday weekends, troopers made nearly 60,000 stops.
Troopers call the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day the “100 deadliest days of summer.” Traffic volume and fatalities are highest in that window.
May, September and July are the highest stop months. October, June and August are the lowest stop months.
Laura Bischoff is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Patrol data shows patterns in tickets, warnings, drunk drivers