CIRCLEVILLE — When it comes to the automobile casualties that have occurred for the year of 2019, it is evident that distracted driving, driving under the influence, and weather conditions combined make for a challenging epidemic in narrowing the root cause of their havoc.
Regarding those that have occurred on US Highway 23, however, citizens should be aware of the added risks that bear potential threats to this heavily traveled road.
In total, US 23, runs approximately just over 300 miles, and 23.2 in particular to Pickaway County alone. Crossing over the Ohio River and into Downtown Portsmouth, it is a heavily traveled route for those in many states, not just Ohio.
Because of this mainstream traffic, Lieutenant Steven K. Herron, Circleville (OSHP) Post Commander, notes that though, “There have been a total of 1,090 crashes in Pickaway County with 250 of those crashes occurring on US 23 for 2019,” and, “this may seem like a staggering number, 23 is a heavily traveled route through Pickaway County that brings spurts of incidents based on the amount of those that use this roadway.”
“I believe within the past month there has been something like five or six semi wrecks on 23 that I have seen. One wreck involving three semis that ran into each other,” Sergeant Michael Munyon of Ohio State Highway Patrol added.
But although these numbers create worry for drivers, Herron confirms that law enforcement agencies have handled fewer crashes on US 23 than the previous five years. In addition, of those 1,090 crashes on US 23, only 38 have been commercial related crashes, which is also lower than past years, and only four more commercial related crashes than this time last year.
Though these statistics alone may not bring comfort to winter weather drivers, Herron further states that only three of the crashes have been fatal, one of which was commercial related.
Similarly, over the past five years, this is not showing an increase and is lower than in 2014 and 2016. According to both Herron and Munyon, of the 250 crashes site-specific to Pickaway County, the following causes were centralized at fault: impaired driving (11); speed (16); distractions (14); and deer (20).
After noting a widespread trend countywide of adults 55 years old or older, at-fault drivers are encouraged to become more aware of their surroundings when operating behind the wheel of a vehicle, and setting aside all distractions before driving.
“Impaired driving, distracted driving, being too busy with their cell phones, or not paying attention to what they are doing,” remarked Munyon, are just a few key factors preventing divers from current traffic safety. “If I go down the road in my patrol car,”
Munyon added, “obviously people see me and put their phones away. However, if I go down the road in my private car, they are texting and not paying attention to what they are doing. This is distracted driving, and why I believe there are so many wrecks on US 23. They are texting, messing with their phones, and not paying attention to what is going on on the roads.”
Yet besides these factors alone, Herron interjects, “Sheriff Radcliff and I are in constant communication, and stay aware of current trends as it relates to traffic safety. The trends that are most prevalent capture our attention, and we try to structure our education and enforcement efforts towards these trends.”
Running several proactive efforts on US 23 to include targeted enforcement blitzes, safe and paved roads, and related commercial initiatives, this year on US 23 alone, law enforcement agencies have issued 87 distracted driving citations, 751 seat belt citations, and made 113 OVI arrests. Painstakingly, more than distracted driving accidents are at risk when it comes to driving under the influence of external factors.
Outside of these impaired driving circumstances, drivers of US 23, let alone any heavily traveled highway, need to be especially cautious as the winter climate approaches Ohio. Expecting to receive a large amount of snow and inclement weather this coming December through March, both the Ohio Department of Transportation for Pickaway County (ODOT) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol suggest some recommended tips for staying safe this frosty season.
According to Brooke Ebersole, ODOT District 6 Public Information Officer, when tempestuous precipitation like hail, snow, or rain does occur, it is essential to know what to do and not do! Especially regarding how to handle the situation before experiencing it for the first time while driving through it.
As important as it is to stay calm during these experiences, it is also crucial that motorists know where to seek help once a disaster has struck. Besides calling 911 after an immediate collision, drivers should also consider calling AAA and the ODOT to report fatalities.
While AAA can help with small fender benders or flat tires, ODOT can offer large-scale assistance when there is a crash on an ODOT maintained state-route, US-route, or interstate.
As noted by Ebersole, “ODOT partners with area law enforcement frequently, but ODOT’s involvement in any crash is dependent on what law enforcement sees fit. Sometimes, there are crashes on the highways where ODOT is not involved at all. Other times, we provide resources like trucks and arrow boards to assist in the maintenance of traffic.”
Furthermore, simple, easy, and effective measures can also be taken to prevent stressful driving havoc. Prior to driving, drivers should clear snow and ice from the windows, headlights, tailpipe, and tail lights of their vehicles (these must be on anytime windshield wipers are on), and allow adequate time for defrosters to work.
“It is also smart to supply your vehicle with a winter car kit. This includes an ice scraper, shovel, jumper cables, flashlight, warning devices, blankets, cell phone charger, first aid kit, tow rope, water and food for longer trips, as well as ensure your tires have plenty of treads, checking your battery and keeping your windshield washer in reservoir full,” Herron chimed in.
Following these protocols not only decreases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning but keeps you, as well as other drivers on the road, safe from additional drifting condensation.
Once you begin driving, Herron and Munyon then suggest that operators go slowly and increase following distances, remembering that bridges, ramps, and overpasses will freeze first. In essence, when driving under the weather, Ohio State Highway Patrol suggests taking your time, slowing down, and focusing on your surroundings.
“It’s when people get in a hurry or are distracted,” Munyon stated, noting that accidents are more likely to happen.
Whether it’s snowing or not, drivers need to be aware of the potential threats they can cause for others when choosing to speed, drive while tired, switch lanes without checking, multitasking, eating, or getting behind the wheel of a vehicle when physically, emotionally, or socially unstable. Though it is statistically proven that one will at some time drive in inclement weather conditions, drivers should proceed with caution.
For more information on driving this wintery season safely, visit http://www.ohgo.com/ for real-time traffic conditions from the Ohio Department of Transportation, or contact the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office.
Ice, snow, rain, sleet, or hail can cause additional stress to the already large number of accidents on US Highway 23. But, by taking these precautionary steps, the ODOT and PCSO say it doesn’t have to.