LIBERTY, Ohio (WKBN) – Troopers asking drivers to be careful on the roadways after three accidents involving tractor-trailers on Interstate 80.
From above the roadway, the lanes through the construction zone on Interstate 80 appear to be wide enough to accommodate traffic, but large semi trucks cover the white “fog line” on the side of the road, and the berm is just 18 inches.
Highway Patrol said it’s important for drivers to slow down and be aware, especially in construction zones. Troopers said drivers need to understand even the slightest deviation can lead to really big problems.
“While I can tell you they’re safe to traverse, if you’re not paying explicit attention to what you’re doing, tragedy can happen,” said Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt.
Holt said construction is so common during the summer months that drivers can become used to it, but not paying attention while in these construction zones can be a mistake.
“… It only takes a split second of not paying attention for there to be bad news,” he said.
Driver Mark Cosgrove of Masury is being cited for failing to control his rig for causing the crash that shut down the interstate for 10 hours. His truck was carrying 8,000 gallons of gasoline, which caught fire when he drove off the side of the road and the semi flipped over, investigators said.
Highway Patrol has handled 128 accidents this year so far along Interstate 80 in Trumbull County, including one late Thursday night that is being blamed on a hydroplaning semi truck. It also handled an accident that same night in Hubbard, in which a driver drifted off the road.
While Troopers say the accidents had nothing to do with construction zones, they said there have been three accidents in the same spot on Interstate 80 in Liberty Township — all involving tractor-trailers that drifted off the pavement and onto the embankment, where the drivers were unable to steer back onto the highway.
“Unfortunately, because of the weight of the commercial vehicles, once they get off the pavement, it’s essentially sucking them down those embankments, and there’s virtually nothing we can do to prevent that,” Holt said.
The Ohio Department of Transportation says ongoing construction in the area will change traffic patterns. Traffic will shift away from the lanes that are currently open to the ones that are now under construction.
“What will happen here is there will be barrier walls there around the vehicles, so they’ll have two lanes of traffic surrounded by barrier walls,” said ODOT spokesman Justin Chesnic.
The project will take another two years to complete.
Authorities say the best way to avoid more accidents like this is to slow down and pay attention.