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Slow down — speed isn’t worth the risk

Earlier this month, the Ohio State Highway Patrol conducted a special enforcement operation on a portion of Interstate 70 in the center of Belmont County. The speed limit in that area ranges from 65-70 mph, but troopers found that the average speed of motorists was 88 mph!

Fortunately, no crashes occurred during the enforcement period. If one had happened, it likely would have been devastating considering the high rate of speed many drivers were achieving. Lt. Maurice Waddell said the highest recorded speed that day was 96 mph.

Who needs to go that fast in the middle of the day on a typical Friday?

Where are these people going in such a hurry?

Surely, they are not in that big of a rush to get to work. And I doubt that social engagements, shopping trips or even dates are so important that someone needs to travel 26-31 mph over the already fairly high speed limit.

Although the numbers reported by the patrol sound shocking, they probably don’t come as a big surprise to people who drive on I-70 every day. I almost always take the interstate for at least a portion of my daily commute, and while many of my friends and co-workers consider me to be a bit of a lead foot, dozens of cars and trucks pass me every day as if I am sitting still.

And it isn’t just that I am being passed at high rates of speed — drivers are exhibiting plenty of other reckless and aggressive behavior on local roadways. Tailgating, in particular, is rampant with vehicles large and small traveling much too close to the cars and trucks ahead of them.

I’ve got news for those drivers: Running so close to my back bumper that we are certain to collide if another vehicle swerves my way or if a deer runs out into the road isn’t going to get you to your destination any faster. In fact, it may land us both in the hospital — or worse.

What is so important that you are willing to risk your life and the lives of your passengers and other people on the road just so you can drive as fast as your vehicle will go?

Here’s another news flash for such drivers in the eastbound lanes: Once you get close to West Virginia, you are going to be slowed down whether you like it or not. And that is going to be the case for at least a coupe of years.

A series of highway bridges is being repaired or replaced from the Bridgeport area to the other side of the Northern Panhandle. The bridges are located on I-70, and the project already is causing delays even though work hasn’t begun in earnest.

Taking Interstate 470 won’t get you where you’re going much faster, because a great deal of the normal I-70 traffic will be rerouted to that highway. That is going to increase congestion and, almost inevitably, lead to more accidents on I-470.

Shouting at other drivers and making obscene gestures doesn’t achieve anything, either. Such actions merely make you look hot-tempered a foolish, and they set a terrible example for the children in your own vehicle or in the cars and trucks around you.

Neither local roadways nor the left lane is the exclusive domain of any one driver, whether you are an area resident or are just passing through. We all need to remember that other drivers have every right to be on our roads, and they certainly are within their rights when they are obeying the speed limit and other traffic laws.

As fall sets in, a variety of dangerous conditions will make Ohio’s roadways even more hazardous than they already are, so slowing down and respecting others would be a smart move.

With cooler weather, there will be morning and evening fog, leading to decreased visibility. Frost and freeze cycles will lead to slick spots on road surfaces. The dreary, rainy season of late October and November likely will cause water to pool in spots, creating hydroplaning hazards.

On top of all that, wildlife will become more of an obstacle for drivers. Many animals, preparing for the coming winter, will be more focused on finding food and shelter than on traffic. They will cross roadways, especially at dawn and dusk, and they will cause drivers to brake or swerve unexpectedly. Deer, especially, will leap onto our roads as they participate in the annual rut, hoping to create a new generation to be born in the spring.

And those deer rarely travel alone. They will cross roads in small groups of three or four at a time, or a doe may pop out of the trees while being pursued by a buck. Occasionally, big groups of deer including a dozen or more members may appear seemingly out of nowhere. Striking any one of them – or having them bound into the side of your vehicle – could result in major damage or even injury to you.

So, this is my message to everyone on our local roads: Slow down. Whatever your destination, it will still be there when you get there. Driving like a maniac isn’t worth the risk to you or to anybody else on the road.

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