Traffic warning: Watch your distance


State officials hope an animated sign will help cut down on rear-end collisions on Airport Highway in the Spring Meadows shopping area.

Rather than installing permanent signs on posts, the Ohio Department of Transportation last week moved a portable message board - the sort normally used to warn about construction sites or other temporary conditions - onto Airport Highway's westbound shoulder just west of I-475/U.S. 23.

The sign urges readers to "Watch Your Distance" and shows the outline of one car crashing into the rear of another.

Sgt. Jim Kertesz of the Ohio Highway Patrol's Toledo post said troopers responded to 129 rear-end collisions on Airport near Spring Meadows in the 14 months beginning Jan. 1, 2006. Those collisions accounted for 59 percent of the 218 total crashes in the area during that time, he said, and occurred most commonly in rainy weather.

Andrea Voogd, a spokesman at ODOT's district office in Bowling Green, said the sign will be moved around so it remains an attention-getter, rather than risk it fading into Spring Meadows' cluttered backdrop once motorists get used to its presence.

"There are so many signs in that area as it is, it would be easy for this to get lost," Sergeant Kertesz agreed. "We hope that this message board will mean that people will allow just a little more distance between them and the traffic ahead of them."

Ms. Voogd said the sign will be relocated to Airport's eastbound lanes next week.

The state patrol suggested the animation as an extra attention-getter "to drive the message home," she said. While elementary, the animation required several hours' work by an ODOT programmer, as each frame of movement was created individually.

If the sign is deemed effective, it could be tried on other area roads, such as Central Avenue between I-475/U.S. 23 and McCord Road, the ODOT spokesman said.

Sergeant Kertesz said rear-end collisions represented about 40 percent of crashes the highway patrol handled on that part of Central in the same 14 months. Because Sylvania Township has its own police department, he said, troopers handle a relatively small proportion of crashes on Central compared with Airport Highway in Springfield Township, where Spring Meadows is.