Commercial trucks bring added danger to Ohio’s highways

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 6

They bring oranges from Florida, oil from Louisiana, and potatoes from Idaho.

But commercial trucks also bring added danger to northwest Ohio’s roads.

Crisscrossed by I-75, I-80, and I-90, Toledo gets truck traffic from across the country. And when trucks get into accidents, the results can be deadly.

In 1995, the last year for which complete statistics are available, commercial trucks were involved in 24 per cent of rural interstate crashes in Ohio. And in 63.8 per cent of those crashes, the truck driver was found at fault.

Indications are that the situation is not improving. Last year, 29 people died in rural accidents involving trucks. By the middle of last month, 25 people had already died this year, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

“I’ve seen truck drivers do some unbelievable things on the road,” said David Cooke, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety. “But I’ve also seen car drivers do unbelievably dangerous things around those trucks.”

With construction and rising fares on the Ohio Turnpike, more and more truckers are using state highways, sometimes two-lane roads through small towns.

In Fulton County, for example, truck traffic to and from the North Star BHP Steel plant near Delta has increased on State Routes 2 and 109, said Lt. Fred Greive, commander of the state patrol’s Toledo post.

Michael Webber, commander of the patrol’s Findlay post, said that while trucks make up 3 per cent of Ohio’s registered vehicles and 7 per cent of all miles traveled on Ohio roads, they are involved in 11 per cent of fatal crashes.

The enormous weight difference between trucks and cars makes accidents much more likely to turn deadly, especially for people in the cars. Nationwide in 1995, 98 per cent of people killed in car/truck accidents were in the cars.

“If you’re in an accident with a truck, it’s going to be bad,” Lieutenant Greive said. “If you’ve got a 70,000-pound truck colliding with a 3,000-pound car, things aren’t going to be good for the car.”

With size comes momentum and a much tougher time stopping quick ly. An average car moving at 65 miles an hour can stop in 162 feet. For an average tractor-trailer, it takes 420 feet – almost a football field and a half – to come to a stop.

That’s what happened, investigators believe, in an Aug. 19 accident on State Rt. 2 near Port Clinton when a Michigan truck driver failed to stop in time, rear-ending another tractor-trailer. The trucker veered left into oncoming traffic, hitting a van filled with teenagers from Detroit head-on. Six people in the van died. The truck driver, George Croom, 59, of Cleveland, spent a day in the hospital.