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Published: Wednesday, 1/7/2004

Area to get ODOT fender-bender signs

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Signs urging motorists involved in fender benders to move their damaged vehicles to the shoulder if they can soon will be posted along freeways in Toledo and other major Ohio cities, the Ohio Department of Transportation said yesterday.

If motorists take the advice, the signs should help reduce congestion and prevent secondary crashes in traffic backups that form near accident scenes, said Joe Rutherford, an ODOT spokesman in Bowling Green.

“This is part of the [ODOT] director s safety and congestion management plan. It s an immediate-impact, low-cost way to try to reduce congestion,” Mr. Rutherford said.

The signs, featuring an image of two cars colliding and the words, “Fender Bender? Drive Damaged Vehicles to Shoulder,” have been posted in Cincinnati and Columbus, and similar signs have been put up on expressways in many major cities.

But the plan got mixed reviews from a Toledo police official and a local safety planner.

While the goal of unclogging the road is admirable, “it also destroys the evidence of who may be at fault” for a collision, said Sgt. Paul Kerschbaum, of the Toledo Police Department s traffic section.

Even with minor collisions, he said, “80 percent of the time” there s a dispute over who s to blame, and police could have a hard time reconciling conflicting drivers stories if vehicles are moved from a crash scene.

“It s going to cause somebody heartaches, because somebody s not going to get their car [repairs] paid for,” the sergeant said. “If there s some potential there s going to be a problem, don t move em.”

“My first thought was, How will they know whose fault it is? ” said Gwen Neundorfer, coordinator of the Lucas County Traffic Safety/Safe Communities Program. “I like the idea of clearing up the mess, though. We ll just have to see how it works.”

It is not ODOT s intention for drivers to try to move cars involved in injury accidents, Mr. Rutherford said, or vehicles that have substantial damage. And police could close lanes as necessary, he said, to measure skid marks or do other investigative work even if vehicles involved in a minor crash are no longer in place.

“If [drivers] keep their vehicles out in the road without a valid reason, they create the potential for serious injury to themselves or to other people who use the road,” he said.

Five signs will be put up on I-75 and I-475 this winter and spring, depending on weather, Mr. Rutherford said. A sixth is to be installed on northbound I-475/U.S. 23 near Airport Highway during a sign project this summer. I-280 may get similar signs once construction of its new bridge over the Maumee River is finished, he said.



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