Patrol beefing up Rt. 33 enforcement in Fairfield County

Monday, June 1, 2009 2:44 PM
By Mary Beth Lane

The Columbus Dispatch
LANCASTER, Ohio - Starting Tuesday and through the month, three extra State Highway Patrol troopers will cruise Rt. 33 from the Franklin County line to Coonpath Road in a stepped-up enforcement campaign in response to crashes, Lt. Gary Lewis said today.
The special detail along the approximate 14-mile stretch of road will focus on Tuesday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., because that's when most of the crashes occur. The patrol's aviation unit also will be on the lookout for bad drivers and will work in tandem with the troopers on the ground, Lewis said.
Fairfield County is growing and that population increase is reflected in the higher number of crashes seen in 2007 and 2008. Crashes along Rt. 33 were up by 25 percent for both of those years, compared with 2006. "Commuter traffic is increasing," Lewis said.
An average of 36,000 vehicles daily are on that stretch of Rt. 33, said Ohio Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kate Stickle.
The Rt. 33 bypass, which already had one fatal crash this year, is known more for speeding than crashes and is not part of the enforcement blitz, Lewis said.
"The number of crashes on the bypass don't support the effort compared to the stretch that we're focusing on from Coonpath to the county line," he said.
The 2008 crash data shows that of 954 crashes the Lancaster patrol post investigated in Fairfield County, 15 percent occurred on Rt. 33, including the bypass. Of that number, 39 percent were injury crashes.
There have been 45 crashes along Rt. 33 the first quarter of this year.
The patrol numbers do not break out the crash numbers for the stretch being targeted this month, but troopers know that the portion of road is prone to accidents, Lewis said.
Top causes of the crashes and injuries are improper lane changes, following too closely violations, speeding and failure to wear seat belts.
Lewis said he hopes the enforcement blitz will change bad driving behavior and reduce crashes.