Speed racers take to the highways

Troopers clock some motorists at more than 100 mph during pandemic

Some drivers took advantage of roads and highways emptied by the coronavirus pandemic by pushing well past the speed limit, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

On Sunday, troopers from the Canfield post clocked one driver going 101 mph and another 93 mph, both on Interstate 76 near Lake Milton, according to Sgt. Shaun Baskerville.

“I worked there most of the holiday weekend, and most people were driving mid-to-high 80s,” he said.

The speed limit there is 70 mph.

It was even worse in Trumbull County, where troopers clocked a driver at 116 mph on the state Route 5 / state Route 82 bypass Saturday, according to Sgt. Erik Golias, assistant post commander of the Warren Post in Southington. The speed limit there is 65 mph.

The speeding “hot spots” in Mahoning County, according to traffic monitoring devices used by the Ohio Department of Transportation, are state Route 11 and Interstate 80, Baskerville said. Interstate 680 also is a trouble spot. In August, 873,451 vehicles traveled on I-680 and 7 percent of them were traveling 20 mph or more over the speed limit, he said. About 1.7 million people traveled Interstate 80 in August and 1 percent, or 17,138, went 20 mph or more over the speed limit, he said.

More than 1 million vehicles traveled on Route 11 last month in Mahoning County, with 0.57 percent at 20 mph or more above the speed limit, Baskerville said.

“That is 7,000 vehicles going 85 mph or more on our stretch in one month,” he said.

Route 11 also is a trouble spot in Trumbull County, Golias said, noting it is the third-most problematic area in the county.

“The other day, I pulled over an 18-year-old woman doing 92 mph on Route 11. When I pulled her over, she had her phone open on her lap and I could see a text messaging app on her screen,” Golias said. He said Route 11 also is a “distracted driving target area.”

He said the worst stretch of road in Trumbull County for speeding is U.S. Route 422, between the Portage County line and Warren city limits. The patrol post is located about halfway in between. The speed limit varies throughout the stretch, but it is mostly 55 mph.

Golias said the second-most problematic area when it comes to speeding is Interstate 80 between Hubbard and Weathersfield. The Route 5/82 bypass is the fourth-most problematic area.

He said troopers generally pull vehicles over for crash-causing behaviors, such as speeding, failure to yield or stop and swerving, known as a marked lanes violation. Golias said swerving is usually indicative the driver is distracted.

Between Friday and 5 p.m. Monday, Golias said troopers from the Warren post stopped 657 cars, handled 16 crashes, made five felony arrests, served three warrants and cited 13 people on minor misdemeanor charges.

“Those felony arrests got some bad people off the street and were the result of troopers looking beyond the traffic stop,” Golias said.

Statewide, troopers have issued 2,200 tickets since April for driving more than 100 mph, a 61 percent increase over the same time period a year ago. The highest ticketed speed was 147 mph in the Cincinnati area.

While traffic has decreased 15 percent from February through July, the number of people driving more than 80 mph on Ohio roads jumped by 30 percent, according to sensor data analyzed by the Ohio Department of Transportation. Ohio authorities especially are troubled that speeds not only picked up in the early days of the pandemic when roads were emptier, but they’ve also continued even as the state reopened and roads became more congested.

“We’ve seen people continue to go those speeds even though there now is more traffic, which makes it even more dangerous,” Lt. Craig Cvetan, an Ohio patrol spokesman, said.

July was Ohio’s deadliest traffic month since 2007, with 154 fatalities. Of those, four were in Trumbull County; none were in Mahoning County. Statistics have not yet been compiled for August.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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