Thursday, May 23, 2002

Tickets not I-75 answer, police say

'Blitz' yields 4,000 citations, no fix for crash-prone area

By Janice Morse,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A three-month traffic enforcement blitz on an accident-plagued stretch of Interstate 75 — during which some 4,000 citations were handed out — has ended.

        The Ohio State Highway Patrol is still on the lookout, although as the travel-heavy Memorial Day weekend nears, officers emphasize they can only do so much to promote safety on the roads.

[photo] Lt. Michael Sanders (left) of the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Sheriff's Deputy Jason Rosser watch traffic from the median of Interstate 75 between Ohio 63 and the Michael A. Fox Highway.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        “I wouldn't want people to get the mistaken impression that traffic safety is only our business,” said Lt. Mike Sanders, commander of the patrol's Lebanon post. “Traffic safety is everybody's business. We're the last resort.”

        The fatality-prone segment of I-75 that traverses Butler and Warren counties has drawn considerable attention.

        Since November 2000, 13 people have died in eight crashes — six involving motorists crossing the median into oncoming traffic.

        Most involved speeding.

        In response, state highway officials have made road improvements and plan more, and the patrol added troopers for four “blitz” periods during the past 18 months.

        The crashes seem to resurge if officers back off even a bit, says Rep. Shawn Webster, R-Millville, who went on an April ride-along to see troopers at work.

        “I don't know what the answer is,” he said.

        “(Troopers) can't watch it 24-seven ... but when the cat's not around, the mice play.”

        From Jan. 30 to May 1, troopers from the patrol's Lebanon and Hamilton posts issued a combined total of about 4,000 citations in the I-75 target enforcement area: the Montgomery County line to Interstate 275.

        That's about 3,000 more citations than usual, said Lt. Michael Black, commander of the patrol's Hamilton post.

        The largest category of violations was speeding, with 982 tickets written by the Hamilton post alone, Lt. Black said.

        “But it's not even a matter of citations — it's a matter of saving lives,” he said.

        During that period, there were 45 crashes — 15 fewer than the five-year average for the I-75 segment, Lt. Sanders said.

        There was one fatality, compared with six during the same period in 2001.

        Lt. Black said the patrol has received e-mails, letters and phone calls encouraging troopers' vigilance.

        “The motorists see a lot of recklessness out there,” he said, “so they've been very positive about the work we've been doing.”

        At least one trooper per shift patrols that segment of I-75, Lt. Black says; more will be added if crashes increase again.

        “You would think that the publicity about all of the fatalities would be enough to make people slow down, but it wasn't,” Lt. Black said.

        “We'll go out and write another 4,000 tickets if that's what it takes to save a life out there.”

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