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Ohio State Highway Patrol: I-70, I-470 Safety Corridor Having Positive Impact

Lt. Maurice Waddell, commander of the OSHP St. Clairsville Post, and Lauren Borell, spokeswoman for Ohio Department of Transportation District 11, pose for a photo next to a posterboard displaying various statistics over the past year from the Belmont County distracted driving safety corridor. (Photo by Carri Graham)

The Ohio State Highway Patrol and Ohio Department of Transportation celebrated the first anniversary of the distracted driving corridor in Belmont County, which officials say has had a positive impact on the roadways.

Since the safety corridor was launched in August 2020 along Interstates 70 and 470, there has been a decrease in crashes and fatalities along those stretches of roadway. According to OSHP statistics, there was a 13 percent decrease in injury and fatal crashes from Aug. 14, 2020 through July 31, 2021 compared to the previous year, and a 42 percent decrease compared to statistics from 2018 and 2019.

As a part of the celebration, the OSHP and ODOT hosted an informational event Wednesday morning with the Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust to highlight the success of the corridor and provide resources on safe driving. The event was held at the I-70 westbound rest area near Belmont. Lt. Maurice Waddell, commander of the OSHP St. Clairsville Post, said they wanted to recognize the positive impact the corridor has had on motorists and the roadways.

“It seems these signs have gained attention from drivers, along with our enforcement efforts. Crashes have been reduced, and we’ve had zero fatalities within the distracted driving corridor since it was started, so that’s a good thing,” he said. “We’re the only part in the state that has those signs. As soon as people see them, it grabs their attention that there’s strict enforcement so it brings awareness to motorists traveling through the area that distracted driving is a problem and we’re working in this area to make sure no one drives distracted.”

Waddell said he is hoping to continue the downward trend of crashes and injury crashes along the road, which spans a total of 27 miles including 20 miles of I-70 from mile marker 205 to the Ohio/West Virginia state line and 7 miles of I-470.

“The dangers of distracted driving are apparent to everyone, but motorists still choose to participate in this dangerous behavior,” he said. “This corridor and our partnership with ODOT continue to bring further awareness, education and enforcement to the problem of distracted driving.”

The OSHP issued 38 distracted driving citations since the corridor was launched and initiated more than 3,300 enforcement stops inside the area.

Lauren Borell, spokeswoman for ODOT District 11, said the statistics speak for themselves. She said there has been a significant improvement overall in roadway safety within the corridor. She urges residents to put down the distractions and focus on the road when driving whether it’s in the corridor or on a township road.

Beginning Sunday, a resurfacing project will take place along 13 miles of I-70 within the corridor. The work will take place from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and cause one-lane restrictions. Waddell said they want motorists to be aware of the impending road work so that people put down the distractions. He said there will be workers in the zone, and he urges motorists to pay attention.

Linda Cook of Barnesville was also at the event to help spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. In 2017, Cook’s husband Steve was killed by a distracted driver while he was paving a road in a work zone just west of Columbus. She said Steve stepped out of a paver he was in just as a car sped through the construction zone and hit him. He was killed on impact.

Since then, Cook has dedicated her life to helping prevent these kinds of accidents.

“This is very important to me to be at these events and get the word out to people to slow down and save a life, respect the heavy highway construction workers out there and be a safer driver,” she said.

Cook said she is working to make the laws more strict for people driving distracted through work zones.

“These are human beings out there doing their job and they want to get home to their families at the end of the day. People don’t take it that seriously. I just want to make it safer for them and try to save another life which is what my mission is,” she said.

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