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Speed blamed for rising road deaths

| Sunday, May 6, 2012, 5:08 p.m.

The death of an Acme man in an automobile accident late Sunday night has added to a tragic trend in Westmoreland County.

Charles Brown III, 45, became the 10th person killed in eight days in traffic accidents in Westmoreland County, authorities said Tuesday.

"It seems the contributing factor in all of these is speed," said Chief Deputy Coroner Paul Cycak Jr. "It's hard to understand. To put a cause on it is hard, other than the probability of speed."

State police at Greensburg said Brown was traveling east on Snake Hill Road shortly after 10:30 p.m. Sunday in his 2002 Saturn.

Jeffrey Mauro, of Greensburg, was traveling west in an Oldsmobile Intrigue. Police said Brown's car crossed the centerline and hit Mauro's car head-on.

The Westmoreland County Coroner's Office said Brown was not wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected from his car. He was pronounced dead at the scene by Deputy Coroner Gerald Fritz. The cause of death is listed as multiple blunt-force injuries to the head and neck.

An autopsy will not be performed. Toxicology test results will not be available for two to four weeks.

Brown's death is the latest in a recent rash of fatalities from vehicle accidents on Westmoreland County roads:

  • A two-car accident in Washington Township on Route 66 killed Shannon Dreyer, 17, of North Apollo and Jason J. Little, 22, of Penn Hills.

  • Joseph Dye, 45, of Jefferson Hills, Allegheny County, died Sunday after his motorcycle struck a sport-utility vehicle on Route 31 in East Huntingdon Township.

  • Kevin DiVecchio, 24, of North Huntingdon Township, was killed after he lost control of his vehicle early Saturday morning on Route 30 in Derry Township.

  • Lee Lenhart, 28, of Youngstown, was killed Thursday, when the motorcycle he was riding crashed into a pickup truck in Unity Township.

  • Edward Blystone, 24, and Robert Demacko, 22, both of Apollo, died Sept. 27 on Coal Hollow Road.

  • A Sept. 25 accident in Mt. Pleasant Township claimed the lives of two brothers. Clarence "C.J." Cavalcante, 19, and Daniel Cavalcante, 16, were killed when a vehicle driven by Clarence swerved while traveling east on a winding stretch of Norvelt-Kecksburg Road and slid sideways into the path of another vehicle.

    The Coroner's Office reported that blood tests performed on Clarence Cavalcante disclosed no traces of alcohol in his system. The office still is waiting for results of drug tests.

    The Calvacantes' 15-year-old brother, Paul, also was injured in the accident.

    The fatal accidents bring the total in Westmoreland County to 34 for 2005, just two less than last year. In 2003, there were 41 deaths as a result of vehicle accidents.

    Dan Stevens, public information officer for the county Department of Public Safety, said there were 267 vehicle accidents in September and already 24 this month as of noon Monday.

    The numbers don't represent an unusual amount of accidents but do reflect an inordinate number of fatalities.

    "We don't see any additional accidents," Stevens said. "We don't see anything we can attribute it to. It's just Westmoreland County's turn. That's the bad way to say it, but these things are cyclical. We've just had a rash of fatalities."

    Stevens said he has noticed one factor -- many of those who were killed were not wearing seat belts.

    "People have to start realizing seat belts save lives," Stevens said. "We just have to buckle up. State police have tried to aggressively enforce the seat-belt laws, but there are some people who only put them on when they see the guy sitting there in the police car, and they take them off when they pass them."

    PennDOT's District 12 office said a high number of young drivers ages 16 to 25 are killed or injured in speeding-related crashes in Westmoreland, Fayette and Washington counties. The agency said that from 1997 to 2001, there were 3,845 speeding-related crashes involving young drivers in the district; the crashes killed 54.

    The office issued a news release yesterday, urging parents to remind teens about the dangers of driving and to be aware of the driving habits of people who drive the vehicles in which their children are passengers. The news release also reminds parents to be good role models and to keep tabs on their children.

    "In a society fascinated with fast cars, it is very easy for a young, inexperienced driver to be overcome with the desire to fly down the highway," said Safety Press Officer Jay Ofsanik.

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