COLUMBUS (WCMH) — For the 18th time this year, an Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) crew was hit by a motorist on Ohio’s highways. This latest crash occurred on the north side of Columbus Monday night.
It was about 9:45 P.M. when an 18-year-old ran into the back of a stationary ODOT truck that was signaling for motorists to change lanes due to road crews ahead.
The Columbus Police Department report shows the driver of the vehicle was not found to be distracted. The claims of how the crash occurred are not corroborated with the version of events as described by the ODOT worker who was in the truck that was struck.
The driver of the car that ran into the truck claims other vehicles prevented lane changing, and could not stop in time because of the vehicle’s poor brakes. The speed was estimated by police that the car was traveling around 60 miles per hour at the time of the crash, according to the report.
The ODOT worker says she saw the driver change lanes into the path of the parked truck “at a high rate of speed” before the crash occurred.
Regardless of how it happened, the end result was the collision from which everyone was able to walk away. A safety device attached to its truck made this possible. It is called an attenuator and is designed to fold up like an accordion, absorbing much of the force of the crash.
The 18-year-old’s car was heavily damaged and the ODOT truck suffered no damage at all. However, that was the best case scenario in such a collision.
According to ODOT, had the attenuator not been present, or had the driver not hit the attenuator and lost control of the car, things could have turned out much worse.
The employee in the truck was shaken by the incident. It was her job to sit in the truck and watch for vehicles that may be out of control, or a danger to the other workers. This is a job not all ODOT workers take on, as it can be dangerous being the first line of defense for their colleagues.
There is little this person can do to stop a collision from happening once it is clear one will occur. All they can do is try to warn the others something is about to happen. They don’t always get the chance to do that.
The ODOT worker in this case is Tiffney. She has a 4-year-old daughter at home. She says, her daughter stands at the glass door every morning waiting for her mother to come home. Her employer would like to make sure that happens, and is asking drivers to pay attention on the roads, slow down and move over.
It also happens to be the law, in Ohio. When you see a vehicle on the side of the road with flashing lights you must move to the next lane over. Sometimes, in heavy traffic situations, that is not possible; in those instances you are allowed to slow down significantly. ODOT would like to see motorists do both.
“These men and women are simply out there trying to do a job; and that job is to make the roads safer for all of us to travel on. All they ask in return is that you watch out for them, and you allow them to return home safely at the end of the day,” said Matt Bruning, with ODOT. “All of the signs, all of the high visibility materials, all of the vests and safety equipment that we put on, all of that is negated if you’re not paying attention and you don’t see it. So we really need people to pay attention and when they see our crews to move over and slow down for them.”
In 2020 there have been 18 crashes involving ODOT crews. The agency has not lost any lives this year, but is has lost 162 employees since they were established.
The crashes are also becoming a regular thing, according to ODOT staff, which is perplexing to them since people are told about these accidents.
“This shouldn’t be a thing that happens at all, and we want people to know that these are your sons, your daughters, your moms, your dads, your grandparents that are out on the side of the road; and in Tiffney’s case, you know, she’s a mom,” said Brooke Ebersole, with ODOT. “The moral of the story is: move over, slow down, pay attention, and drive like your loved ones work here.”