Three people lost their lives in fatal motor vehicle crashes in the county last year, a number which reflects a downward trend nationally.

While PennDOT’s official report for 2018 will not be released until April, records indicate five individuals died in accidents in 2017 and seven in 2016.

“From our standpoint, our goal and hope is to have zero fatalities,” said state police trooper David McGarvey, community information officer with Troop G in Hollidaysburg. “Usually, when we look at fatalities, there are the common themes of speeding, not wearing seat belts or impairment.”

In those cases, all three factors are preventable, but others are not.

“There are certainly some crashes that are just not survivable,” McGarvey said. “Even though the operator does everything right, sometimes it comes down to basic physics where the size disparity between the vehicles is too great.”

Weather conditions can also cause unavoidable hazards contributing to tragedy.

“Sometimes it’s weather conditions like rain, snow or freezing rain,” he said. “However, whatever the case may be, there is still a section within the vehicle code called driving vehicles at safe speeds, which requires the driver to slow down due to weather conditions. It is the driver’s responsibility to drive at a speed at which they can control their vehicle.”

It was mid-April when the first fatality occurred on county roads. A Mercersburg man, Carter Brown, 19, lost his life in a three-vehicle crash on Route 22 in Henderson Township April 15. Mr. Brown struck a 2007 Toyota Camry operated by a Harrisburg man, who was uninjured. He then collided head-on with a 2001 Toyota Camry operated by a Lewistown woman who sustained moderate injuries and was flown to UPMC Altoona for treatment.

The second accident took place on Hares Valley Road in Union Township and claimed the life of a 60-year-old Mount Union man July 26. Teddy Mays was driving a GMC Sierra north on state Route 655, left the roadway on the east side and struck a ditch. He then crossed over the south-bound lane and struck a tree on the west side of the road. During the course of the accident, Mr. Mays was ejected from the vehicle and then struck by the vehicle.

A Petersburg woman perished in the third fatal crash of 2018. Megan Hoffmaster, 35, died as a result of a single-vehicle crash in Logan Township Aug. 6. Miss Hoffmaster was operating a 2005 Mazda 3 north on Barree Road when she exited to the right-hand curb for unknown reasons as she was negotiating a left-hand curve. Police believe she overcompensated, which caused her to cross the northbound and southbound lanes before striking the embankment on the southbound side. After striking the embankment, the vehicle traveled along the embankment before going back on to the road. The vehicle also slid on to its passenger side before coming to a final rest on its roof.

McGarvey added that even though the number of fatalities has decreased, incidents of distracted driving continue to rise.

“There are many more things people can be distracted by with the technology these days that wasn’t available 10 years ago,” he said. “Distractions are another cause of crashes we often find when we investigate.”

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