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Ohio patrol releases report on wrong-way crashes

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A State Highway Patrol analysis of wrong-way crashes in Ohio since 2011 concludes that such wrecks occur less frequently than other types of accidents but tend to be much more severe and almost always involve multiple vehicles.

The report released Friday is aimed at better informing travelers, law enforcement, policymakers and others about circumstances of wrong-way crashes and the dangers such drivers pose on interstate highways and other high-speed roads.

The patrol analyzed 60 crashes that occurred between January 2011 and April 2013 on divided roadways and found that those led to 31 fatalities and 85 more injuries. All but a handful involved at least one vehicle other than the wrong-way traveler.

"Although they do not occur especially often, wrong-way crashes — particularly those on interstate routes and other high-speed, divided roadways — are typically severe and result in the death or injury of innocent victims," the report said.

More than 80 percent of the crashes happened at night, and more than half the wrong-way drivers were suspected of drug or alcohol impairment.

Increased enforcement and awareness, stronger penalties and new legislation all might help address the problem, the patrol said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is scouting locations in Columbus and Dayton for a pilot program to use traffic camera equipment that might be capable of identifying wrong-way vehicles and alerting the state's traffic management center, which could then ask law enforcement agencies to intervene, department spokeswoman Melissa Ayers said. The plan is to retrofit 24 cameras with the technology, at a cost of about $80,000, to see how it works with the state's system, she said.

"We're always looking for new ways to try to keep people from driving the wrong way," Ayers said, adding that the department also regularly reviews road signage to determine if new signs or changes in the placement of existing signs might help.

The department put up new signs last year in a five-county area around Toledo in an effort to prevent drivers from going the wrong way following a series of accidents. One, a March 2012 collision on Interstate 75, killed a wrong-way driver and three of the five Bowling Green State University sorority members in the vehicle she struck. The two surviving students were severely injured.

A head-on collision along Interstate 75 near Franklin southwestern Ohio killed four people, including a 7-year-old boy, and injured two more children in late December. Days later, a wrong-way wreck on I-75 in northwest Ohio killed a Toledo man and injured a Michigan man.

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