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April 18, 2024

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ODOT works to prevent more wrong-way crashes

A little more than a year after a wrong-way crash claimed the lives of three University students, both the Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Highway Patrol have taken measures to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

The local highway patrol has adopted proactive measures such as visiting driver education schools to discuss highway safety, including wrong way driving, in order to make the public more aware of those situations, said Lt. Jerrod Savidge, post commander for the Bowling Green Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol.

ODOT spent $74,300 adding 245 signs and pavement markers along highways in Wood, Lucas, Henry, Ottawa and Sandusky counties in District 2, said Theresa Pollick, public information officer for ODOT District 2.

This time last year, neither department had any strategy or plan in place to help prevent those types of crashes.

“We wanted to increase the visibility for wrong-way drivers to prevent wrong way crashes from happening,” Pollick said.

After a safety review team researched different measures and practices in Ohio and the county, ODOT chose these updates because of how fast they could be implemented, she said.

The department began to implement these updates in the summer of 2012 and finished the project in December, she said.

“It’s important to understand that we’re constantly looking at ways to enhance safety — it’s a continuing process,” Pollick said. “Wrong-way crashes have been an issues since the highways were built in the 1950s, but we’re constantly researching new ways to prevent wrong-way crashes and all crashes.”

Other changes included adding wrong way signs on exit ramps at interchanges and installing the signs at a three-foot mounting height, she said.

Lower mounting heights are more visible at night because they are illuminated by the headlights of impaired and older drivers, who tend to drive with their eyes low, Pollick said in an email.

In most wrong-way instances, however, impairment isn’t usually the case.

“The majority of the time people go on the wrong side of the road is a cross between a full-out mistake and getting on the wrong ramp and not being familiar with the area,” Savidge said. “Once people see the lights, they’ll pull over.”

While both departments have taken these preventative measures, neither will be able to tell how effective they are in lowering these crashes compared to the past, as the state just started to record wrong-way crashes this year.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety captured this data due to a pre-planned update to crash reports, which happens every five to 10 years, not because of the crashes this past year, said Lt. Anne Ralston of the Public Affairs Unit of the Ohio Highway Patrol.

Since Jan. 1, there have been two wrong-way collisions in Wood County and 638 in the entire state, including 11 fatal crashes, according to a March 14 query on the department of public safety’s website.

The full year’s worth of statistics won’t be available until mid-2014 because the department of public safety keeps crash statistics for all law enforcement agencies in Ohio, Ralston said.

While the crash statistics are new, the highway patrol is looking to keep these particular crashes low.

“There’s even more of a sense of urgency when responding now to prevent what happened last year because it was obviously very tragic and that scene always flashes in mind,” Savidge said, recalling the University students’ accident.

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