The new post commander promised strict, firm but fair law enforcement.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- It hasn't been a good three weeks for Lt. Jerry Thompson.
Thompson, 42, took command of the Lisbon post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol on July 1, and in each of those three weeks there has been a fatal traffic crash.
Thompson, who was commander of the Warren post for nine years, returned to Lisbon, where he served as a sergeant from 1990 to 1992. He replaces Lt. George Williams, who took command of the Ravenna post.
He said post troopers will continue target enforcement for DUI, speed and seat-belt violations, particularly along a three-mile stretch of U.S. Route 30 near Depot Road west of Lisbon, where three people have died this year.
So far, 13 motorists or passengers have died in as many crashes since Jan. 1, compared with 10 in all of 2001 and 12 in 2000.
Of the 13 crashes, five were alcohol-related and eight were caused by excessive speed. Three of 13 were motorcycle crashes.
Most disturbing to Thompson is that nine of the victims were young people, ranging in age from 12 to 27.
"These are young people who deserved to live life to the fullest," he said. "They were robbed of that chance because of a mistake. In some of those crashes, all it took was a small, split-second mistake."
Thompson said that as the patrol and other law enforcement agencies stress safety messages, he wonders if anyone is listening.
"Safety is what we have to offer to the public," he said. "Safety is our product. Hopefully, by making a stop and issuing a citation, we will make people think twice about speeding, or drinking and driving or not wearing a seat belt.
"I don't know what it will take for people to recognize what it takes to operate a motor vehicle," he said. "At no time can you afford to have a lapse in attention to what you're doing."
A parent's view
Thompson said he can't imagine the anguish of those parents who have lost children in the fatal accidents this year.
He said that though his 17-year-old daughter Brittney has proved to be a good driver, he still worries any time she is behind the wheel. Jasmine, meanwhile, is dutifully counting the days until she is 151/2 -- sometime in December -- when she can obtain her driving permit.
Thompson is a 24-year patrol veteran. He graduated from the former North High School in Youngstown and attended Youngstown State University.
He is working on a degree in human resources management at Geneva College, in Geneva, Pa., and taking some of the course work at YSU.
Thompson, his daughters and his wife, Beatrice, live in McDonald.