By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
U.S. 6 offers few challenges to drivers. It’s about has flat and straight as they come.
But the route that stretches east-west just south of Bowling Green is the site of many fatal crashes.
“It’s the number one deadly killer road in Wood County,” said Sandy Wiechman, coordinator of Wood County Safety Communities.
In the past three years, there have been 18 fatalities on Route 6 in Wood, Henry and Sandusky counties. During that same period, there have been 252 injuries and 745 property damage incidents on the roadway.
So the route is now the focus of “Safe 6 Initiative,” which will coordinate law enforcement agencies to target aggressive driving behaviors on Route 6.
The top causes for crashes on the route have been identified as failure to yield, failure to keep assured clear distance, going left of center, unsafe speeds, and improper passing.
Route 6 is the second largest federal highway in the U.S., second only to U.S. 20, Wiechman said during a gathering Tuesday of area law enforcement, Ohio Department of Transportation and AAA officials.
On its route from California to Massachusetts, Route 6 travels across Ohio farmland in the west, up to Lake Erie, and then through wooded areas of Ohio’s east.
“It cuts through the heartland of Ohio,” Wiechman said.
The roadway is used by many area residents for their daily commutes. Traffic increases in the summer, as motorists use the route to get to Lake Erie or other vacation destinations.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Angel Burgos, of the Bowling Green post, said Route 6 is known for being a dangerous road, high in fatalities. Burgos has had to make death notifications to families of the victims.
“The driving behavior just needs to change,” he said. “Hopefully, we can make Route 6 a lot safer this summer.”
The high number of crashes on the route is a “head-scratcher,” according to Staff Lt. Jerrod Savidge, of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
“It’s straight. It’s flat. It’s kind of a boring drive,” Savidge said. Many of the crashes are caused by drivers failing to yield or going left of center.
Edgar Avila, president and chief executive officer of AAA, is working with local law enforcement on the traffic safety initiative. More than 90 percent of vehicle crashes are caused by human error, he said.
“AAA is happy to partner with Wood County Safe Communities,” Avila said.
One of the focuses will be to take away distractions when driving.
“AAA is asking drivers to put away devices and just drive,” Avila said.
Wiechman agreed. “It does only take one time,” for a crash to occur. “We need to buckle up, hang up and heads up.”
Drivers stopped on Route 6 will be handed safety information. Tips for avoiding potential crashes for those in passenger cars:
- Obey all traffic control devices.
- Follow the speed limit. If the weather is hazardous, adjust your speed accordingly.
- Always wear your seatbelt.
- Leave two to three car lengths between you and the car in front of you.
- Stay focused on your driving.
To avoid crashes with commercial vehicles:
- Remember, if you cannot see the driver, they cannot see you.
- Allow for safe lane change.
- Maintain a safe distance.
- Be patient.
- Allow extra space for stopping.