Motorists reminded to watch speed

Motorists are reminded to watch their speed to prevent serious crashes on Ohio roadways.

Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) officials this week warned that excessive speed reduces reaction time and increases the severity of traffic crashes.

OSHP Lt. Anne Ralston said they are urging all motorists to obey posted speed limits and drive within their abilities.

“It is important to follow the posted speed limit because they are set after numerous traffic safety studies, which consider traffic patterns, volume and average reaction time,” OSHP Wapakoneta Post Sgt. Kristina Bennett said.

She explained areas where the speed is reduced from 55 miles per hour is due to residences, business, foot traffic, schools, and other considerations, where the potential for a collision becomes greater.

“At 55 miles per hour you are traveling 80.7 feet per second,” Bennett said. “Increasing your speed to 70 mph puts you at 102.6 feet per second. The average stopping distance after you figure in reaction time for a passenger car at 55 mph is 216 feet (288 for semis) and at 70 mph it is 329 feet (444 for semis). These are tests on drivers who are paying attention, not distracted by cell phones, GPS units or other distractions, so it will only increase from there.”

In 2011, 30 percent of all fatal crashes — resulting in the deaths of 479 people and injuring 72, 536 more— in Ohio were caused by speed-related factors, according to OSHP statistics.

“We want drivers to remember that with a higher rate of speed, the greater the risk of serious injury or death in a crash,” Ralston said.

The second leading cause of fatal crashes in 2011 was improper lane change, improper passing, and driving off the road, which accounted for 13 percent of all fatal crashes.

“Excessive speed greatly reduces a driver’s ability to negotiate an unexpected curve, to stop within an assured clear distance ahead, or to steer safely around a hazardous object,” OSHP Superintendent Col. John Born said. “Speeding drivers put themselves, their passengers and other drivers at tremendous risk.”

Because troopers with the Wapakoneta Post don’t normally do a long speed work up on a crash, they don’t generally label them as speed-related. Bennett said instead, crash reports usually indicate that the motorist went off the roadway because they were speeding and lost control or they went off the road after losing control in a curve.

She said most of the crashes troopers here marked as speed related are ones that occur in winter and the motorists are going too fast for road conditions.

“We had 107 unsafe speed crashes last year, 33 were injury crashes and one fatal,” Bennett said. “We usually average two speed-related fatals a year.”

While speeders can come from any demographic, Bennett said locally, motorists under 35 years of age are the most likely offenders.

Statewide, motorists 16- to 25-years-old caused 37 percent of the 124,948 speed-related traffic crashes in 2011. This same group of motorists received the most speeding citations — 29 percent of the total 289,554 speed citations issued by the Highway Patrol.

The Patrol, in partnership with the Ohio High School Athletic Association, in 2012 formed a teen driver safety program known as “You Are in Control,” which aims to educate young drivers about the consequences of dangerous driving habits and to reinforce safety, responsibility and awareness.