By Wayne Gates
Three fatal crashes in six months on a seven mile stretch of U.S. 68 have gotten the attention of the Ohio Highway Patrol.
Targeted enforcement on distracted and aggressive driving violations by more troopers are now underway between the 62/68 junction south of Georgetown to the Mt. Orab village limits.
OHP records show that 37 year old Shawn Simmons was killed on that stretch of highway on January 17 by a driver who failed to yield.
The next fatal crash happened in the area on May 28 when 47 year old Franklin Conner was killed by a driver who went left of center. Just nine days later on June 6, 41 year old Elethia Davis was killed by another driver who went left of center.
Following the Davis crash, OHP Georgetown Post Commander Randy McElfresh began planning the increased enforcement, called a “Problem Behavior Initiative” by the OHP.
It went into effect on June 24 and will continue through October 1.
Besides the three deaths on U.S. 68, there have been four more fatalities in Brown County since the first of the year, for a total of seven.
Thomas Drott was killed on U.S. 62 on March 19 after driving off the roadway, Timothy Dennis was killed on May 18 with “unsafe speed” listed as the cause, Shane Cash was killed while riding a bicycle on U.S. 68 north of Mt. Orab on June 21 and Charles Richey was killed on Bethel-New Hope Road on July 1 due to excessive speed.
Extra troopers will be on the seven mile stretch of U.S. 68 at different times of the day and on different days of the week.
They have been instructed to watch for distracted drivers and aggressive drivers, as well as drivers who are impaired by drugs or alcohol.
McElfresh said that different types of drivers present different problems.
“Distracted drivers tend to drift left and right of center when they are focused on something else in the car besides their driving,” he said. “Aggressive drivers do things like follow too closely or speeding.”
McElfresh also said that drivers can get in trouble when they get complacent.
“People normally drive the same route every day and nothing happens. So they and everyone else who is doing the same thing gets comfortable.”
He said with that comfort comes the temptation to be distracted by cell phones, music, conversation or any number of other things that can take a drivers attention away from the road.
“People need to be engaged with driving and stop worrying about everything else. When you are engaged in driving, you senses are heightened, your reactions will be a little bit quicker and it might keep you out of an accident,” McElfresh said.
He added that people don’t think about the fact that four feet or less is separating them from a head-on crash on a two lane road.
“When I drive, I’m always looking for a way out. I’m going to choose to hit a mailbox rather than hitting a truck head on. That mailbox will be a whole lot more forgiving than that truck that’s in my lane because it’s being operated by a distracted driver,” McElfresh said.
He said that safety on the road comes down to doing the right thing behind the wheel.
“If everybody follows the speed limit and everybody does what they are supposed to do, we shouldn’t have any problems. But when you have an operator of a vehicle that is impaired or distracted or driving aggressively, that’s when we have the problems,” McElfresh said.
If you see a distracted, impaired or aggressive driver, McElfresh asks that you call 911 or the Ohio Highway Patrol at #677.