Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Patrol to crack down along death-prone road

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] In the I-75 median Highway Patrol Lt. Michael Sanders (left) and sheriff's Deputy Jason Rosser watch traffic.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        Within five months, five crashes killed seven people on a 9-mile stretch of Interstate 75 — a trend police are working to stop.

        “We've had (fatalities) there in the past, but not really like this. ... The whole thing is really kind of strange,” said Sgt. Ken Ward of the Ohio State Highway Patrol's Lebanon Post.

        In each case, drivers crossed the median into oncoming traffic. Other common factors: Too few seat belts in use — and too much alcohol, officers said.

    • Nov. 17: Gina McGeorge, 37, of Lebanon, died when her 1996 Dodge Neon crossed the median on I-75 and was struck broadside by a pickup truck and horse trailer south of the Middletown exit. Alcohol was a factor; her blood-alcohol level was 0.16. It was unclear whether she was using a seat belt.
    • Jan. 17: Roshan Hamied, 30, of Miamisburg, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.26 — more than 2 1/2 times the legal limit — while driving the wrong way in the northbound lanes of I-75 near Middletown. Sylvia B. Gibson and Norma G. Cabral, both of Dayton, were killed in a head-on collision with Mr. Hamied, who also died. None of the victims was wearing seat belts.
    • Jan. 24: On northbound I-75 south of Ohio 63, Wayne Swanson, 42, of Dayton, Ohio, was killed after a truck crossed the grassy median and hit him head-on. • March 1: Grigori Solka, 32, a native of Russia, died in a crash near Ohio 63. His 1993 Oldsmobile Achieva was northbound and crossed into the path of a southbound vehicle. He was not wearing a seat belt; he and his passenger, Kuranbayev Nariman, 44, also of Russia, were both ejected. Mr. Nariman remains in serious condition at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. • March 11: Jeremy Neargarder, 23, of Franklin, died in a crash about midway between Ohio 122 and Ohio 123. His 1991 Ford Mustang was southbound and crossed the median. His vehicle was struck broadside by a 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix driven by Lee Thomas Jr., 37, of Dayton. It was unclear whether Mr. Neargarder was wearing a seat belt. Mr. Thomas, who was wearing one, was listed in serious condition Tuesday at Miami Valley.
        From now until mid-April, the patrol's Lebanon and Hamilton posts, in cooperation with the Butler and Warren sheriff's offices, will be increasing their presence in the problem area, said Lt. Michael Black, the Hamilton post's commander.

        The enforcement area covers a 17-mile stretch between Ohio 123 (Franklin exit) and the Cincinnati-Dayton Road exit, Sgt. Ward said, although all the fatalities happened within a 9-mile segment of that span.

        Officers have already begun writing more citations for “crash-causing violations,” Lt. Black said at a Tuesday news conference at the rest area near Ohio 63.

        Lt. Michael Sanders, commander of the Lebanon post, said those violations include drivers who go too fast and follow other vehicles too closely. Motorists should allow one vehicle's length for every 10 mph being traveled, he said.

        He also pointed out the importance of using a seat belt. At least four of the seven who died were not belted in.

        “People don't realize: Air bags alone don't cut it. They're only good for that fraction of a second that they're inflated — and it won't help if you're involved in a secondary collision or a rollover,” Lt. Sanders said.

        While the threat of a ticket might get people to comply, officers hope to increase public awareness and safety — not write a record number of traffic tickets, Lt. Black said.

        “We don't want to see anybody else out there killed,” he said.


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