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Two people, including one in Ohio, were killed in fatal traffic crashes on I-80 across the United States during an eight-day period when police agencies stepped up enforcement in hopes of preventing any such deaths.
Lt. Brett Gockstetter, commander of the Ohio Highway Patrol's Milan post, said the crash Saturday evening on the Ohio Turnpike that killed Kimala K. Lowry, 53, of Norwalk, remained under investigation today and a report likely would take several weeks to complete, including the results of toxicology testing.
The crash occurred near the U.S. 250 interchange and just a short distance from the Milan post. Ms. Lowry's vehicle was eastbound about 7 p.m. when it went out of control, struck a guardrail on the driver's-side door, and went down an embankment, troopers said in an initial statement.
Lieutenant Gockstetter said the crash was particularly frustrating to him and his troopers because it occurred during the midst of the I-80 Cross-Country Challenge, which began July 24 and ended Wednesday. Troopers from the Milan post and nearby off-Turnpike patrol posts dedicated 1,100 man-hours to enforcement on the toll road's middle 80 miles during that time, he noted.
"We obviously spent a great amount of resources to prevent that sort of thing from happening, but some things you just can't prevent," the post commander said.
Rain Saturday evening had made the pavement wet in the area, Lieutenant Gockstetter said, and the area near the U.S. 250 interchange seems to be particularly accident prone during such weather. While there are no curves nearby, he said, sight distance is limited as the Turnpike rises to cross its bridge over U.S. 250, and drivers "don't adjust their speed accordingly" when it rains.
"I guess we ruined it for the whole country," the lieutenant said ruefully before being advised of the other I-80 fatality during the crackdown, which occurred in Nebraska.
The (Lincoln) Journal-Star said that crash July 25 involved a motorcyclist who crashed into a median wall after coming up on traffic slowed because of a previous accident. Motorcyclist Godfrey J. Brokenrope, 50, was the police chief in his hometown of Aurora, Neb., the newspaper reported.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety, which developed the multi-state enforcement concept for I-80 and is gathering data from the other 12 states involved, said in a statement issued after the event's conclusion that law-enforcement leaders realized eliminating all fatal crashes during the campaign was "an aggressive goal and would be extremely tough to achieve.
"The overarching goal of the I-80 Challenge was to change driver behavior, increase seatbelt usage, and eliminate impaired and drowsy drivers along our roadways," the statement said.
"The I-80 Challenge was conducted with one imperative goal in mind: saving lives. The collaboration of law enforcement officers for this traffic safety campaign is admirable and should inspire future traffic safety initiatives aimed at saving lives on our nation's highways," said Patrick Hoye, chief of the Iowa Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau.