Trooper talks about I-70 crash, ODOT urges driver awareness

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In an instant anything can happen. Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper, Rodney Hart, is living proof of that.

“I think it’s pretty amazing that we were able to get out of it,” Trooper Hart said. “I’d say I am [lucky]. I think somebody was looking out for us yesterday, definitely.”

Tuesday, Trooper Hart responded to a disabled vehicle on I-70 in Licking County. The car was in the right lane.

He says he pulled up and parked behind it. He turned on the lights on his cruiser and placed flares on the road.

He got back in his cruiser to call for help. The driver of the disabled vehicle was waiting in his passenger seat when it happened.

“I remember putting the car in park, picking up my radio and calling in and I never saw anything coming I just felt it,” he said.

An 18-wheeler slammed in the back of his cruiser. Hart suffered a fractured rib and a fractured nose. The woman in the car is still in the hospital, but is expected to make a full recovery.

“Slow down and pay attention when you’re in these work zones,” Ohio Department of Transportation Press Secretary, Matt Bruning said.

Bruning says the dangers on Ohio roadways continue to rise.

“We know work zones can be dangerous places,” he said. “In fact, last year was our worst year.”

In 2015, ODOT reports there were 6,035 work zone crashes in Ohio and 30 fatalities, which are almost doubled from 2014’s number of 17 fatalities.

Tuesday, ODOT kicked off “Work Zone Safety Awareness Week,” which raises driver awareness for emergency responders and construction crews on the side of the road.

Bruning says in 2016, ODOT will spend $2.1 billion on 1,100 roadway projects around the state. The department is also utilizing 130 highway digital message boards across the state to remind drivers to stay safe.

Reminding drivers of work zone safety is not new for Trooper Hart who, in 2015, appeared in an ODOT public service announcement stressing the importance of slowing down and moving over for emergency vehicles and work zones. You can see that video here.

“Distracted driving, for whatever reason…if the person doesn’t see you it doesn’t matter where you’re at [if] you’re in the path,” he said.

ODOT has four main tips for drivers to help eliminate distracted driving:

  • Don’t speed
  • Don’t tailgate
  • Stay alert
  • Be patient

For more tips and information, log on to ODOT’s website.