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Ohio Department of Transportation    News Release
District 1    Kirk Slusher, P.E., District Deputy Director
1885 North McCullough St. • Lima, Ohio 45801
www.transportation.ohio.gov/dist1
ODOT Urges Holiday Shoppers: Be Extra Cautious
Intersection crashes increase during holidays
LIMA (December 2, 2011) – Although the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, they can also be one of the most dangerous as motorists are more likely to be involved in a crash – especially at busy intersections near malls and shopping districts. 
According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, intersection crashes spiked nearly 20 percent during the 2010 holiday shopping season (Thanksgiving to Christmas day) when compared to other months of the year. In addition, intersection crashes increase dramatically on Sunday, which is typically the safest day to travel throughout the year.
“Heavy traffic, complex traffic patterns and multiple driveways near intersections increase the potential for people and vehicles to collide,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray.  “You can avoid a crash and reduce the risk of serious injuries by being patient and giving walking, riding or driving your full attention around malls this holiday season.”
In 2010, there were 12,256 crashes at intersections in Ohio during the shopping season – 4,329 people were injured and 33 people were killed.  Most crashes were angle and rear-end collisions, often caused by motorists following too close to other vehicles or misjudging the gap in traffic when turning at an intersection or driveway.
Cell phones, texting and other distractions are also an increasing concern. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about 20 percent of injury crashes nationwide involved reports of distracted driving.
“You can prevent crashes in Ohio by ‘parking’ your cell phone until your vehicle is safely parked,” Wray added. “No call or text is worth the potential risk.” 
Locally within the eight-county region of ODOT District 1, statistics show that intersection crashes generally increase by 22 percent once the holiday shopping season arrives. From 2006 to 2010 there were an average of 313 intersection-related crashes per month within the area which includes Allen, Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert and Wyandot counties. That number jumped to 383 during the holidays.
“Our message is simply that there are more people driving during the holidays and they’re in a hurry. If you are feeling anxious about the holidays chances are your fellow motorists are as well which can lead to unsafe driving practices and accidents,” said Kirk Slusher, ODOT District 1 deputy director.
Some of the areas within the region where motorists should take extra caution this holiday season include both shopping corridors on Ohio 309 on the west and east side of the city of Lima, the North Clinton Street area in Defiance, and the business and shopping corridor on the city of Findlay’s east side.
ODOT urges drivers to keep these intersection safety tips in mind to protect themselves and their passengers this holiday season:
  1. Stay alert, slow down and drive defensively when approaching an intersection. Allow extra time to get to your destination.
  2. Avoid distractions such as using a mobile phone, eating, drinking and listening to loud music while driving.
  3. Don’t try to beat a red light.  Traffic signals are there to guide motorists through complex turns and other traffic movements, as well as provide safe crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  4. Be cautious, even with a green light, and look both ways before entering an intersection to make sure all cross traffic has stopped.
  5. Never change lanes in an intersection. Changing lanes increases confusion and adds to the complexity of successfully navigating through an intersection.
  6. Watch for increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic at intersections.
  7. Buckle up. It can significantly increase your chance of surviving a crash.
  8. Do not drink and drive. Impaired driving is a leading cause of fatalities and serious injuries.
  9. Maintain a safe stopping distance between you and the vehicle ahead.  ODOT recommends one car length for every 10 mph.
  10. Don’t crowd the plow.  The holidays mean the return of snow and ice conditions.  Increase your distance between cars, trucks and plows during storm events.  If you have to pass a plow, use extreme caution and beware of the snow cloud.
To improve safety at intersections, ODOT has invested about $13 million over the past two years to improve the reliability and visibility of signals. The department has installed reflective back plates on signals, battery backup systems to maintain power during outages, and brighter LED signal bulbs. ODOT also invests about $72 million annually in projects that improve road safety statewide.
Intersection safety is one of the major roadway safety initiatives in ODOT’s “Every Move You Make, Keep it Safe” campaign.  Programs include Safe Routes to Schools, Roadway Departure Crash Reduction and Intersection Safety. The public is invited to find out more by visiting www.everymove.ohio.gov.
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For more information contact:
Melissa Ayers, ODOT Central Office Communications, at 614-644-8640; or
Rhonda Pees, ODOT District 1, at (419) 999-6803; or email D01.PIO@dot.state.oh.us