MILAN, OH (WOIO) - The Ohio Turnpike Commission and Infrastructure Commission dedicated a memorial sign to Trooper Robert Perez, Jr. on National Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15.
Trooper Perez died three days after his patrol car was struck from behind by a minivan on the Ohio Turnpike in Erie County near US-250 on May 15, 2000.
Trooper Perez was 24-years-old and was born in Lorain, where he was a lifelong resident.
"Eighteen years and everyone still remembers Robert," said his sister, Amanda Owsley.
With the flag half-staff, Trooper Perez Jr.'s family, friends and colleagues gathered near the same exit where he lost his life.
"We can only hope that as people drive past, they'll look up the story and see a name and face for the reason these signs are up here," said Executive Director Randy Cole.
Statistics show since the Move Over Law went into effect in 1999, there has been a significant decline in crashes.
"According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, over the last decade, vehicle crashes and being struck by a vehicle has taken more officer's lives in the line of duty then being shot in the line of duty," said Cole.
Not only will this sign hang on the Ohio Turnpike, duplicate versions will hang in the homes of Trooper Perez Jr.'s family members. They believe all of this will make a difference.
"You know when they see so many signs going up to pull over, I think it really makes people think and I've seen a lot of people pulling over," said Owsley.
She says the family is still mourning.
"You know we have our moments. We really believe that Roberts in a better place and um, I just believe he's patrolling the gates of heaven," said Owsley.
The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission continues its Memorial Sign Program Dedication Ceremonies this week as part of its Work Zone Awareness Campaign and efforts to ask motorists to move over for first responders with flashing lights on highways.