Sgt. Glenn Peterson of the Ohio Highway Patrol talks to the driver of a sport utility vehicle that he pulled over for speeding along State Rt. 163 west of Oak Harbor.
OAK HARBOR, Ohio - State Rt. 163 runs straight through the flat, open farmland of Ottawa County.
For most drivers, there's not much to look at, but Sgt. Glenn Peterson of the Ohio Highway Patrol finds plenty to keep his eyes busy: speeders, unbelted drivers, and motorists with too much tint on their car windows.
As cars, vans, and trucks pass him going the opposite direction, Sergeant Peterson clocks their speed with a dashboard radar unit and glances at the drivers to see whether they're following the state's seat-belt law.
The radar alerts him that a sport utility vehicle is speeding. “We got him at 65,” he says, which is 10 miles too fast. The trooper activates his emergency lights, whips the patrol car around, and guns the engine. Seconds later, the black Oldsmobile Bravada pulls to the side of the road. Sergeant Peterson radios the license plate number to the patrol's Sandusky post.
Through the passenger window, he asks the driver about his speed, tells him about recent accidents on the road, and gives him some good news: “I'm just going to write you up a warning and ask you to slow her down today so we can keep you around a lot longer.”
Excessive speed is one factor the patrol blames for a spike in fatal crashes this year in Ottawa County. So far, 15 people have died on county roads, up from five last year.
Authorities also are concerned about motorists failing to yield at stop signs and driving while drunk.
Of this year's fatal crashes, eight occurred on two roads: Route 163 from Oak Harbor to State Rt. 51, and State Rt. 2 between Camp Perry and the Lucas County line.
The patrol's Sandusky post plans to boost coverage of those roads with 120 hours of federally funded overtime from Dec. 20 to Dec. 31, and again from Jan. 13 to April 15, says Lt. David Cope, Sandusky's post commander.
The 2003 enforcement effort, including beefed up patrols during the high school prom season, will use 375 hours of overtime funding from the federal government. That translates to about $11,250.
Sergeant Peterson says the key is being visible. Drivers slow down and follow traffic laws when they see a police car. “It's not about giving a ticket,” Sergeant Peterson says. “It's about changing people's driving habits.”
On this morning, the sergeant issues warnings to two more speeders and a young woman driving a red Chevy S-10 pickup with tinted windows. Using a portable monitor, Sergeant Peterson finds that the truck's windows let in just 1.6 percent of the light - far below the state standard of 50 percent.
But another driver with tinted windows doesn't get off with a warning.
As the sergeant watches the stoplight at Route 163 and State Rt. 51, an SUV with mirrored windows goes by. He speeds up behind the northbound Kia Sportage and he pulls the vehicle over.
“I'm a little concerned about your window tint,” he tells the driver. “It's got to let in 50 percent of the light.” His monitor's reading: 1.1 percent.
He asks for her insurance card, and she tells him she has none. “Are you aware it's a state law that you have to have insurance?” he asks.
The sergeant continues: “The window tint is going to cost you a citation, and the lack of insurance is probably going to cost you a license suspension.”
Back in his car, Sergeant Peterson radios the post to check the woman's driving status. She has a valid license. But as the sergeant hands her the ticket he tells her, “Without insurance, you really should not be driving.”