Traffic, fire stats shared at meeting

SIDNEY — Sidney Fire Deputy Chief Dallas Davis recently hosted the quarterly meeting of the Governor’s Community Traffic Safety Network of Shelby County. Sidney Police Chief Will Balling provided those in attendance with the traffic statistics for the first quarter of the calendar, comparing them with similar statistics from the previous year.

“Fortunately, there were no fatalities in the first quarter either year,” Balling told the group. “Accidents were also down. We investigated 131 accidents in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 114 this year.”

Other statistics revealed that the number of citations issued was down 15% from the previous year and the number of traffic stops was down 22.8%. When asked about the decrease in departmental activity, Balling noted that the department was down six officers over the course of the past yeara.

Balling also provided the group with the top 10 most dangerous intersections, with the Michigan Street /Vandemark Road intersection again leading the list. The Court Street /Ohio Avenue intersection was the second most dangerous intersection based on the number of crashes.

Five intersections tied for third place. They included North Street at Main Avenue, West Court Street at Fourth Avenue, Michigan Street at the southbound ramp of Interstate 75, Vandemark Road at Gleason Street, and Poplar Street at Ohio Avenue.

Three intersections tied for eighth place. They included West Court Street at South West Avenue, Russell Road at Wapakoneta Avenue, and Court Street at Main Avenue.

When questioned about the leading cause of accidents, “In fact, it is driver inattention,” Balling explained. “Too many people are distracted when they take a call, send a text message, adjust the radio, and any number of other things. Drivers simply have to pay attention. Driving is a full-time job.”

Balling’s presentation was followed by that of Ohio State Highway Patrol Piqua Post Commander Lt. Joseph Gebhardt. Gebhardt reported that he too, was down four troopers, and that his statistics were only for Shelby County, although the Piqua Post is responsible for patrolling state highways in Darke and Miami Counties as well as Shelby County.

“We’ve made 615 enforcement stops this year compared to 1,065 during the same period last year,” Gebhardt reported. “We’ve made 999 non-enforcement stops in the first quarter this year compared to 1,185 last year.”

“Unfortunately, we’ve investigated 84 crashes this year compared to 58 during the first quarter last year,” Gebhardt continued. “We’ve also made 24 OVI arrests this year compared to 14 during the same period last year.”

“We just keep plugging away,” Gebhardt responded when asked about the decrease in personnel and the impact on patrol activity.

When asked about the impact recent bills enacted by the Ohio General Assembly have had on law enforcement (front license plates no longer being required on motor vehicles, allowing conceal-carry without a license, training or the need to inform law enforcement officers that you have a gun when stopped for enforcement activity, and the fact that people can now carry any type of knife in their car or on their person), Gebhardt responded that “it has not made things any easier.”

“We can only use the tools the General Assembly gives us,” Gebhardt stated.

Davis provided statistics for vehicular accidents to which the department has responded. “In all of 2021, there were eight motor vehicle fires,” Davis reported. “Thus far this year, there have already been six.”

“In all of 2021, we responded to just one road freight fire. We’ve already matched that in just the first quarter of 2022,” Davis stated.

“In all of 2021, we responded to nine accidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians,” Davis said. “In the first quarter, we’ve already responded to six.”

The only statistic that indicated improvement from last year that was discussed was the number of responses to motor vehicle accidents involving injuries. There were 67 responses in 2021. Thus far this year, there have been just 11.

City of Sidney Public Utilities Director Jon Crusey reported that the State Route 47 Phase IV improvements were continuing, with lane closures in both directions, and that the work would continue through most of the summer months. He also shared that the street resurfacing scheduled for 2022 would begin in early June. Other pending projects that could disrupt traffic include the replacement of sanitary sewers on Fairmont, Marilyn, Ann and Linden, the replacement of the storm sewer on Aurora, and the replacement of water lines on Grove and Broadway.

Mike Barhorst, who has chaired the Governor’s Community Traffic Safety Network of Shelby County since 1990, attended the meeting with the intent of turning the reins over to Sidney Mayor Mardie Milligan. Also attending the meeting was Tia Toner, who currently coordinates the Safe Communities grant program through the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department. There was some discussion as to whether or not the work of the Governor’s Community Traffic Safety Network of Shelby County could be merged with the work of Safe Communities, but no decision was reached.

Davis provided a program on techniques for extinguishing fires in battery operated vehicles. “In today’s environment, first-responders must be prepared to encounter either an HV battery-only fire, a vehicle and contents fire, or, potentially, both,” Davis stated.

“Fire suppression challenges come from the li-ion battery chemistry, the high-voltages, a large battery size and weight and, typically, the floorpan-mounted battery location. Sidney Fire’s current fire suppression considerations, including strategies and tactics, are constantly being reevaluated,” Davis continued.

“For example, when arriving at an EV fire incident, our firefighters could be confronted with two different yet related scenarios. In one, a li-ion battery-only fire is burning—meaning the fire is contained within the battery cells that are inside of the battery box,” Davis stated. “In the second scenario, the vehicle fire could be consuming combustible materials both inside and outside of the vehicle, and potentially the fire spreading to other nearby property.”

Davis then spoke about the complexities of “stranded energy.”

“Stranded energy refers to the voltage that remains within the battery cells even after the vehicle is shut down,” Davis explained, “and it can remain within the battery for hours, days or even weeks after an accident.”

“Thus far, cooling the li-ion battery in an attempt to stop the reaction within the battery remains the recognized method of trying to stop the fire,” Davis explained. “It takes massive amounts of water, and because of the location of the battery, provides even greater difficulty for firefighters.”

Following a brief question and answer period, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting is scheduled for July 19.