ODOT to spend more than $50 million for traffic safety

By J.D. Davidson - The Center Square

Ohio plans to spend $51 million to try to reduce pedestrian-involved traffic accidents by putting roads on a “diet” and keep other vehicles from going off roadways.

The money is part of the Ohio Department of Transportation and Gov. Mike DeWine’s plan to increase traffic safety. According to ODOT, fatal crashes involving pedestrians and roadway departures both hit their highest levels in 2021 when compared to the previous decade.

“This is a serious problem, and we certainly believe that distracted driving is contributing to this alarming increase in pedestrian-involved and roadway departure crashes,” DeWine said. “The funding we’re awarding today, most of which is going to local governments, will be used to make the physical changes needed to help prevent crashes, but a cultural change around distracted driving is needed as well. I continue to encourage members of the Ohio General Assembly to pass legislation to put more restrictions around mobile device usage while driving to make it clear that distracted driving won’t be tolerated in Ohio.”

House Bill 283 was introduced nearly a year ago and would all but eliminate drivers legally using mobile phones in cars by any method other than hands free.

The bill has had four hearings in the House Criminal Justice Committee, with the latest taking place in February, but has not come to a vote.

ODOT will earmark $25.5 million of its safety plan on pedestrian projects like sidewalks, high-visibility crossings and road “diets,” which ODOT says reduces the number and width of traffic lanes to prompt drivers to slow down.

According to ODOT, 176 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes last year, accounting for 13% of all traffic deaths in the state. Another 530 people were seriously injured.

Another $25.6 million is planned to address roadway departure with things like widening roadway shoulders, installing center and edge-line rumble strips, and modifying ditches and culverts.

In 2021, 703 people were killed and 3,390 people were seriously hurt in roadway departure crashes, according to ODOT.

“Gov. DeWine has always challenged us to be bold and creative as we work to address the rise in traffic-related fatalities. I believe this is both,” ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said. “A goal we share with our partners in local government is significantly reducing deaths on Ohio roads, so we must work together to get there.”

By J.D. Davidson

The Center Square