NEW DETAILS: Wrong-way crashes down, but deaths up

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2019 @ 4:00 AM

WATCH: Man caught on camera driving wrong way on I-675 before deadly crash

The wrong-way crash Friday night on Interstate 675 that killed a Vandalia woman marked the 15th wrong-way death in four years on Dayton area highways.

During that time in Ohio, state records obtained by the Dayton Daily News show there’s been a decline in wrong-way crashes, but an increase in the number of deaths related to such crashes.

Paige Patrick, 23, of Vandalia, is the latest victim.

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Patrick’s white car was struck by a black car driven by 53-year-old Centerville resident Ronald Myer, who was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes on I-675. The two vehicles collided around 9 p.m. south of the North Fairfield Road exit, which led to the northbound lanes being closed for about three hours.

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It was still daylight at the time of the crash, which is unusual among wrong-way crashes, according to Matt Bruning, Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman.

“Typically these are going to be overnight, in darkness, which probably makes it harder for drivers that are going the right direction to see that wrong-way driver because you don’t expect somebody ever coming at you the wrong way,” Bruning said. “No matter when they happen, they’re usually severe crashes. Thankfully they’re fairly rare.”

ODOT records show a decline in wrong-way crashes since 2015, when there were 63 crashes resulting in eight deaths. From 2016 to 2018, an average of a little more than 27 wrong-way crashes resulted in an average of more than 16 deaths each year, according to the records.

Beavercreek police continue to investigate Friday’s crash and said it’s not clear why Myer entered the highway going the wrong direction.

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Police said one witness reported seeing the black vehicle enter the highway going the wrong way at Dayton-Yellow Springs Road.

However, footage from ODOT’s traffic surveillance camera at I-675 and North Fairfield briefly shows the wrong-way vehicle traveling on the exit ramp prior to entering the highway.

The first 911 caller told the emergency dispatcher of seeing the black car, possibly a Buick, traveling at a high rate of speed and going the wrong way.

“They were … showing no signs of like, ‘oh crap I just got on the wrong side of the interstate.’ Like they weren’t even trying to turn around,” the 911 caller reported.

Paige was extricated from her vehicle and taken to Soin Medical Center, where she succumbed to her injuries, according to police. Myer suffered injuries not considered life-threatening, police said.

According to Kettering Municipal Court records, Myer has five previous traffic citations from October 2008 to July 2016. The traffic cases include two incidents of speeding, one failure to yield the right-of-way, one failure to maintain assured clear distance and one failure to give full time and attention to operating the vehicle, according to the court records.

In addition, Fairborn Municipal Court records show Myer was cited by the highway patrol for speeding in 2005, going 83 in a 65 mph zone.

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Bruning said there have been four non-fatal, wrong-way crashes this year in the state. In addition, there have been six “wrong-way incidents” that did not result in a crash, either because the driver realized the error and got off the highway or law enforcement stopped the vehicle before a crash occurred.

So far this year, there have been seven fatal, wrong-way crashes across the state, resulting in 12 deaths, according to ODOT.

Two of Ohio’s wrong-way fatal crashes this year occurred in the Dayton region. In addition to Friday’s incident, charges are being considered in the March 17 fatal crash on I-75 South in Moraine, which resulted in the deaths of a mother, father and their 10-year-old daughter.

Moraine police said alcohol was involved in the St. Patrick’s Day triple fatality, which left the alleged at-fault driver, 21-year-old Abby Michaels, with serious injuries.

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Michaels crossed over the median in the area of the 49-mile marker and was northbound in the southbound lanes when the Kia she was driving hit a Camry carrying Mason residents Timmy and Karen Thompson, and their daughter, Tessa Thompson, 10, police said.

Michaels was taken after the crash to Miami Valley Hospital, where police said a blood sample was taken.

Michaels had a blood-alcohol content of .099 at the time of the crash, which police said they were investigating as a vehicular homicide. No charges have been announced in the case.

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ODOT tracks wrong-way crashes and works to determine where the driver entered the highway to see if any measures can be taken to avoid future incidents.

The tracking has led ODOT to install pavement markers and a second set of lower, wrong-way signs for interstate off-ramps in 17 counties, including Montgomery and Greene. Officials said the second set of signs are placed lower because impaired drivers tend to look downward.

Other preventive measures include a radar system that alerts authorities and triggers flashing LED lights around wrong-way signs when a wrong-way driver is detected.

Installing spike strips has been looked at, but many studies show they are not a good idea for various reasons.

“It’s not something we could do even if we wanted to,” Bruning said. “Nobody manufactures spike strips that can deal with the traffic volumes and speeds that we see on our ramps.”