Increased traffic on Domersville and Baltimore roads near their junctions with U.S. 24 in Defiance County has brought an unwanted, but expected, outcome — more vehicle crashes.
Both became official detour routes when the Clinton Street bridge closed on Feb. 24 for replacement. The new bridge is expected to open in early December, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), if not sooner.
Since the closure, the busier route has been the Domersville corridor, according to Defiance Police Chief Todd Shafer. Crash records suggest as much.
According to the Defiance County Health Department, which keeps track of local crash data, 33 accidents occurred on Domersville Road — between Second Street and the U.S. 24 interchange — in the first six months of this year.
Fewer crashes occurred there in each of the previous three years. Crashes totaled 27 in 2018, 25 in 2017 and 16 in 2016.
“We anticipated it,” said Shafer. “The good thing is the severity of the crashes has not been as bad as they could be.”
According to Shafer, few injuries have occurred from the crashes on Domersville, presumably because speeds are reduced in the high-volume traffic and speed advisory signs have been posted by ODOT.
Most of the crashes, he explained, are caused by motorists failing to maintain an assured clear distance, or distracted driving.
When traffic stops suddenly, a motorist following another vehicle too closely often causes a crash, he indicated. Such a collision may then force a rear-ended vehicle to strike a vehicle or vehicles in front.
“The amount of multiple vehicle accidents — coupled with the damage — we have noticed has picked up,” he said.
Baltimore Road has seen an increase in crashes as well.
In the stretch from the U.S. 24 on-ramp to Atlantic Street, seven crashes occurred from January through June, according to health department records. This compares to three crashes in 2018, three in 2017 and five in 2016.
While Baltimore Road is entirely in the city, the affected stretch of Domersville Road is not.
For example, the East Second Street/Domersville Road intersection is in the county, while the Domersville bridge over the Maumee River is in the city. Still, Shafer said there have been no jurisdictional issues in responding to crashes.
However, what can be challenging is getting responders to the crash scene as quickly as possible and clearing damaged vehicles from the road. Occasionally, Domersville Road must be closed for rescue personnel to do their work.
In that case, an emergency route is available by traveling to Florida in Henry County, crossing the Maumee River bridge there and heading back to Defiance.
The peak times at the two detour routes are 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m., according to Shafer.
With failure to maintain assured clear distance is the main cause of crashes, he advises motorists “to increase that reactionary gap between vehicles” to ensure proper spacing when “someone stops abruptly in front of them.”
He also noted that younger drivers expect to be on the increase in the busy zones with school about to reconvene in coming weeks. Shafer added that “young drivers are not used to traveling in high congestion zones like that.”