State to target high-crash Ohio roads with 70 mph limits


By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press



COLUMBUS (AP) — The state will target high-crash Ohio roads that have 70 mph limits following a report that found a sharp increase in accidents after Ohio raised the limit from 65 mph.

The analysis of those efforts could lead to a temporary reduction of the limit back to 65 mph in selected areas, according to the State Highway Patrol and the Department of Transportation.

A patrol report released last week found a 24 percent increase in crashes on 70 mph roads, including 22 percent more fatal and injury crashes following the change to the higher speed limit in 2013.

The state will use overtime to increase the number of troopers working in three high-crash areas and will launch a $100,000 ad campaign urging drivers to slow down.

“Stop Speeding Before It Stops You” and “Obey The Sign Or Pay The Fine” are among the messages the campaign will promote, according to the state public safety and transportation departments.

Troopers will focus on stretches of I-70 in Licking County east of Columbus, I-71 in Ashland County in northern Ohio and U.S. 33 in Union County northwest of Columbus.

Officers will watch for aggressive driving, including following too closely and improper passing; speeding; safety belt violations; distracted driving; and driving while impaired.

“Roadway safety is a shared responsibility,” said patrol spokesman Lt. Robert Sellers.

If those efforts don’t reduce accidents, the patrol may seek permission from Republican Gov. John Kasich for a temporary reduction to 65 mph in those areas.

At some point, the patrol may also test a reduction to 65 mph in a fourth area.

The Ohio Insurance Institute, which opposed the increase to 70 mph, welcomed the patrol’s proposals.

“There is an obvious correlation between the rise of Ohio crashes and the 70 mph speed limit increase,” said institute president Dean Fadel.

Last year in Wisconsin, a report found that fatalities, injuries and accidents were up since the state raised the speed limit to 70 mph on most interstate highways in 2015.

“When speed limits go up, crashes and deaths on those roads increase, and when speed limits are reduced, crashes and deaths decrease,” said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Ohio insurance agent Tony Schroeder questions the impact of the 5 mph increase on crashes, and says he considers distractions from electronic devices “a far more significant threat.” He says he drives 5-7 mph on either side of posted limits, but usually above.

Schroeder, 52, who lives in rural Putnam County, says how fast you go depends on where you live.

“The vast land area of Ohio is very rural — you may encounter a handful of vehicles when you’re making a half-hour drive,” he said. “I think the higher limit makes a lot of sense, and in almost every circumstance.”

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus

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By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press