Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Crackdown on speeding under way

I-75 blitz meant to reduce fatal wrecks

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — For at least 10 minutes Monday, as scores of other vehicles whizzed past on Interstate 75, the driver of a green Oldsmobile Intrigue was forced to stop and consider how fast he had been going — as a cruiser's red and blue lights flashed behind him.

Sgt. Mike Asbrock, an Ohio state trooper, uses a laser speed detector as he patrols I-75.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        “He's the type that will think about it for a while, I hope,” said Sgt. Mike Asbrock, an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper, after he wrote a citation to the 31-year-old Lawrenceburg man on northbound I-75 just south of the Monroe exit.

        Sgt. Asbrock clocked the man at 79 mph Monday afternoon, the first day of a three-month enforcement blitz aiming to curtail fatalities on a crash-prone segment of I-75 in Butler and Warren counties. Troopers in an airplane and at least four cruisers were out looking for speeders and other violators along a 26-mile stretch between Interstate 275 and the Montgomery County line.

        That stretch encompasses a 12-mile span where 13 people have been killed in 10 wrecks since November 2000. The most recent was a fiery crash that killed a Michigan man last week.

        As of 3 p.m. Monday, troopers had cited 45 motorists, including one clocked at 102 mph near the Butler Regional Highway around 10:30 a.m. Tickets or no tickets, officers say they're trying to change motorists' behavior.

        “The point of the whole three-month blitz is to make the motoring public pay attention to their driving,” Sgt. Asbrock said. “Just sitting here (in a cruiser), I know I'm having an effect. ... I wish people would drive as if there is a marked unit every tenth of a mile.”

        As drivers noticed Sgt. Asbrock and other troopers stopping cars, brake lights illuminated and headlights flashed warnings to oncoming motorists. Sgt. Asbrock's radar gun soon became hard-pressed to find vehicles traveling much above 70 mph.

        “That's good,” he said. “At least they're slowing down because they know I'm here.”

        This is the third crackdown along the so-called “death alley” segment in less than a year.

        The last blitz, from June 17 to Sept. 5, was considered a success, said Hamilton Post Commander Lt. Michael Black, noting no fatalities and a 66 percent reduction in accidents when compared to the same period in 2000.

        “When we're out there, the fatalities stop. When we're not, they start up,” he said.

        Because many of the fatal wrecks involved median crossovers, state highway crews installed rumble strips, grooves that cause tires to vibrate loudly when a vehicle begins running off the roadway. Now state highway officials are considering additional accident-prevention measures.

        But Lt. Black sees a simpler solution: getting harried drivers to slow down, signal lane changes and stop following other cars so closely.

        “People are making mistakes out there on the interstate — and it's killing people,” he said. “We want people to think — and sometimes to get people to think, you've got to hit them in the wallet.”

        A typical citation can cost $100 or more, he said.

        The obvious increase in police presence on I-75 was a topic at Sara Jane's restaurant on Ohio 63, just off the interstate.

        One employee of the restaurant said she spotted three or four cruisers on her commute from Miamisburg — and she was worried about being caught because sometimes she runs late, said Charles Whittaker, a manager.

        “I just told her she'll have to slow down and make sure she wears her seat belt all the time,” he said. “If it saves lives, I think it's a good thing.”


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