Having lost two sisters in separate fatal car crashes, Emily Ludwig is urging state lawmakers to act to make the state highways more safe for Ohioans.
Her sisters, Amanda and Meghann, were both victims in Columbiana County crashes caused by distracted driving. In both the 2012 and 2014 crashes, another vehicle went left-of-center on an undivided state highway.
Legislation to install center line rumble strips for all of Ohio’s undivided, two-way highways is being considered by the state Senate. House Bill 51, sponsored by state Rep. Timothy Ginter, R-Salem, was unanimously passed by the House in June and now awaits Senate approval.
“Had there been center line rumble strips back when these crashes happened, so many lives may have been different,” Ludwig told members of the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee Wednesday.
Rumble strips on the sides of roads prevent drivers from hurting themselves, she pointed out.
“So it makes sense to have one down the center of the roads to keep you from potentially hurting someone else along with yourself,” she said.
John Gordon, a law enforcement veteran with experience as a crash investigator, also has experienced the pain a distracted driving crash can bring. His son, Rusty, was killed in such a crash in 2008.
John Gordon then created a safety program called “Rusty’s Story” that teaches people in Ohio and neighboring states about the dangers of distracted driving.
“Center line rumble strips most likely would have alerted the other driver of the impending fatal consequence,” Gordon said of his son’s crash.
He outlined the many common distractions, from electronic devices to falling asleep or eating while driving.
“The mandate creating center line rumble strips on all state roadways will save lives as the noise and vibration will alert the driver to focus on the task at hand: driving,” Gordon said.
The advocate then cited statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation that said injury crashes are reduced on rural freeways. He also noted a disparity between the continued vehicle safety improvements and yet crash deaths remain high. There was a 7.2 percent increase from 2015 to 2016, the largest one-year percentage increase in a half-century.
“A few legislators will argue that the cost factor of this mandate is too high,” Gordon concluded, “but I ask you, how do you place a dollar value on a human life, and what is the value of your family’s life?”
ODOT has already installed rumble strips on several rural highways. The estimated cost to do so is around $1,000 per mile of strip. There are nearly 50,000 miles of state highway throughout Ohio, though HB 51 would only make strips a requirement on two-way, undivided highways with a speed limit of at least 45 miles per hour.
If passed, ODOT would not be tasked with reworking thousands of miles of highway all at once. The rumble strip installation would come while constructing new highways or conducting “major repair work” on existing highways.