LAKE COUNTY, Ohio (WOIO) - The winter storm that swept through Northeast Ohio caused multiple accidents and some of those were severe, including a multi-car accident on Route 8 that included 95 cars.
And it is exactly that type of accident ODOT hoped to avoid when they implemented a variable speed limit program on Interstate 90 in Lake County.
ODOT put the plan in place following multi-car crashes on 90 in back-to-back winters, both of which included upwards of a hundred cars in each accident.
The plan allows ODOT to reduce the speed limit on 90, using electronic signs connected through the internet, based on forecasts and road conditions.
And according to Matt Bruning of ODOT, the plan is working.
“In fact over the last couple of years since we implemented that, we have not had a major pileup on that corridor, so I think that is really a testament to how well this has worked,” Bruning said.
ODOT reports a 58% reduction in crashes when it’s snowing and a 63% reduction in secondary crashes, since the plan was implemented.
The easy solution to reducing accidents across the state would seem to be to set up variable speed limits throughout the state, but there are a number of factors that make that difficult.
First, it takes legislation in the state house to give ODOT permission to reduce speed limits and at this point, I-90, from Lake County to the Pennsylvania border, is the only highway available in Northeast Ohio for the program.
The other issue is cost, the signage is a significant expense and so is the internet connectivity ODOT needs to be able to electronically prompt the change in the speed limit.
Forecasting where and when whiteouts will occur is very difficult and what makes this program work is the chance to reduce speed limits in areas where there is simply a threat of heavy snow.
“That’s the whole goal, we want to try and get people slowed down before the whiteout hits,” Bruning said