York County is on pace to have fewer fatal crashes this year than it did in 2011.
The York County Coroner's Office investigated 16 traffic fatalities in the first half of this year.
All told, 50 people died in the county as the result of crashes over the course of 2011.
Saying the downward trend is good to see, Wayne Harper, director of the Center for Traffic Safety, said there could be any number of reasons for the decrease.
Police have aggressively stepped up DUI and other patrols, and state- and nationwide initiatives, such as the "Click it or Ticket" campaign, got the attention of motorists.
"There has been enhanced enforcement activity on several fronts," Harper said.
The numbers: While 16 people died in York County as the result of crashes, two of the crashes happened in Adams County.
Two men involved in those separate crashes were taken to York Hospital, where they died of their injuries. Since they died at York Hospital, the York County Coroner's Office was tasked with
investigating their deaths.
In 2011, 50 people died in York County as the result of crashes; 43 of those crashes occurred in the county, Harper said.
Also last year, 38 percent of the 50 deaths were the result of alcohol-related crashes, he said.
So far this year, six drivers killed in crashes were intoxicated, according to the coroner's office. Toxicology reports for three crash victims are pending.
There was a time when 50 percent of fatal crashes involved intoxicated drivers, Harper said.
"What's very unfortunate is 100 percent of those are preventable," he said.
Enforcement: Northern York County Regional Police have seen fewer fatal crashes in their jurisdiction this year compared to last year.
In 2011, there were eight traffic fatalities, three of which involved intoxicated drivers. This year there has been one fatal crash in the department's jurisdiction, said Chief Mark Bentzel.
"When someone drinks and drives, there's the increased risk of crashes and increases the chance of dying," he said.
Between 2002 and 2011, 69 people died in crashes in the department's jurisdiction, which includes Dover and North York boroughs and Dover, Manchester, Paradise, Conewago, Franklin and Jackson townships, he said.
The chief said the department takes a multi-pronged approach to preventing crashes.
Officers aggressively enforce traffic violations, municipalities and the state Department of Transportation are notified of dangerous roads, and police put on educational programs to teach motorists the rules of the road.
One of the programs was a National Safety Council's "Defensive Driving" Program hosted by the department in June, Bentzel said.
Harper said outreach like that and other programs, such as the Center for Traffic Safety's annual youth safe driving competition, help reduce the number of crashes and traffic fatalities.
Programs that target motorcyclists are planned for the future, he said.
Summer: Up until June, there were eight deaths in York County from crashes. The total number of crash deaths doubled when eight people were killed last month.
With young drivers out of class for the summer and people driving to vacation destinations, coupled with a number of holidays, Harper said it's not uncommon for more traffic fatalities to occur over the summer months.
"The summer months do seem to have more injuries or deaths because there are more people driving," he said.
In an effort to curb crashes, state and local law enforcement target intoxicated and aggressive drivers.
Through Sunday, state and local police are taking part in a national enforcement, dubbed "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over," that targets motorists who drive under the influence over the Independence Day travel period.
State Police and local law enforcement statewide are conducting checkpoints and roving patrols as part of the crackdown.
Over last year's holiday travel period, there were 897 crashes and 14 fatalities statewide. Of those, 146 crashes and six fatalities were alcohol-related, according to PennDOT.
But Harper said the announcement of checkpoints shouldn't be the only time when motorists are prompted to drive sober.
"They should do that all the time," he said.
-- Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.