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Alcohol, drug present in more than half fatal one-way crashes in state

By Lou Grieco - Staff Writer

More than a third of wrong-way crashes in Ohio result in a fatality, and more than half of wrong-way drivers were suspected of alcohol or drug impairment, according to a report released Friday by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“What we learned from this study is that most of these crashes are occurring at night, by impaired drivers, said Col. John Born, patrol superintendent. “And that these types of crashes will more than likely end with a fatality.”

Reacting to a 2009 wrong-way crash in New York that killed eight people, the patrol studied similar crashes in Ohio from January 2011 through April 2013. Researchers found 60 crashes, most often on interstates, which killed 31 people.

While 37 percent of those crashes involved fatalities, only .35 percent of all crashes on Ohio roadways during the same period involved fatalities – meaning that wrong-way crashes were more than 100 times more likely to end in death.

The report cited some crashes specifically, including the March 2, 2012 crash on Interstate 75 that killed three sorority sisters from Bowling Green State University, including Sarah Hammond, 21, of Yellow Springs. The wrong-way driver, 69-year-old Winifred Lein, was also killed and two other students were critically injured.

The report found that 58 percent of wrong-way drivers were suspected of impairment, a rate that is 12 times higher than for all crashes during the same time period.

Some other findings include:

— At least one in four wrong way drivers had a prior drunk driving conviction, many with more than one.

— In 70 percent of the wrong way crashes between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m., those incidents were caused by impaired drivers. However during the hours between 6 a.m. and 5:59 p.m., 82 percent of the crashes were caused by drivers not thought to be impaired.

— The crashes occurred on interstates 62 percent of the time, state routes 23 percent of the time and US Routes 15 percent of the time.

The full report can be accessed at http://statepatrol.ohio.gov/doc/WrongWayReport_Final_20130624.pdf

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