By RYAN DUNN
The first year of 70 mph speed limits on regional stretches of Interstate 75 brought an uptick in crashes, but officials attribute the rise to a brutally harsh winter rather than higher speeds.
On July 1 last year, Ohio raised its speed limit by 5 mph for rural interstate highways. The maximum legal speed between Toledo and Lima reached 70 mph, except for a 65 mph limit within Findlay city limits.
The State Highway Patrol provided data to The Courier for the periods of July 1 to June 30 for the past three years.
In Hancock County, vehicle crashes on I-75 increased by 38 to 289 in 2013-14. But, that total was only eight more than in 2011-12.
Speeding tickets in Hancock County dropped by 174 to 2,038 in the most recent period, not far from the 1,995 reported in 2011-12.
January and February crashes this year were significantly higher than usual, said Lt. Matthew Crow, commander of the patrol’s Findlay post. Many of the crashes were less-serious incidents in which vehicles slid off the road, he said.
“It’s come back down to normal now,” Crow said.
Interstate traffic appears to run more smoothly now that commercial vehicles travel at the same speed as other drivers, Crow said. Commercial trucks’ maximum speed a few years ago was 55 mph, he said.
Some drivers on I-75 are still adjusting to no longer traveling 10 mph over the limit, Crow said.
In Wood County, interstate crashes are up by 155 to 432 in 2013-14. Speeding arrests fell from 3,053 to 2,632, or about 200 more than 2011-12.
The wide-open, straight stretch of I-75 in Wood County had a lot of accidents last winter, said Lt. Jerrod Savidge, commander of Bowling Green’s patrol post.
“We’re up because of the first three months,” Savidge said.
The area’s windy conditions create black ice and limit visibility for days after a storm, he said.
Drivers on the Wood County portion of I-75 are traveling at about the same speed with the new limit, he said.
Savidge said interstate drivers should expect slower traffic, regardless. Construction will continue for the next three to five years from Findlay north to the Interstate 475 split, he said.