Tattoos ink path to safer driving

Highway patrol prepares for ‘100 Deadliest Days’

How do you follow up a year in which Mahoning County traffic fatalities dropped by an unprecedented amount in 2023?

Get a tattoo.

Lt. Eric Brown, commander of the Canfield post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, was asked last week for his observations on traffic fatalities and traffic crashes so far this year in Mahoning County, and it turns out the numbers are pretty similar to the first 4.5 months of last year.

The county had 10 fatal crashes in all of 2023, which is 24 fewer than the 34 in 2022. The numbers reflect crashes in all parts of the county handled by law enforcement agencies.

Brown said there are several reasons traffic-crash fatalities have dropped over the past 16 months or so.

The new distracted driving law, which went into effect last October, appears to be making a difference, but it will take a couple of more years to be sure, Brown said. He reported that so far this year, troopers with the Canfield post have written more than 200 distracted driving citations.

Other contributing factors have been new blitzes the Canfield post started last year in busy traffic areas and education in places like area high schools.

“Here at the Canfield post, education is huge,” Brown said. “We do a lot of school events, where we educate our youthful drivers about safe driving habits, making the right decisions when you are behind the wheel, not driving impaired, not driving distracted, wearing your seat belt.”

But Brown said his post and the Ohio Department of Transportation are adding another wrinkle to its efforts to discourage dangerous driving — a pavement marking sometimes called a “tattoo.”

Brown said the markings soon will adorn a section of Interstate 80 eastbound, just east of the state Route 46 overpass in Austintown.

Brown said that in an effort to reduce crashes in that area, the post contacted its partners at the Ohio Department of Transportation to talk about reducing crashes there.

The problem is that drivers change lanes a lot there to continue east on I-80 or exit right onto I-680 south in an area the post calls “the split.”

“What it is is a lot of people changing lanes,” Brown said. “They’re saying ‘What lane do I have to be in to take I-680? Do I have to be in the right lane?’ There are signs there that are pretty clear, but what can we do from a law enforcement perspective to make that more apparent to the motorist?” Brown said.

The crash statistics for improper lane changes at “the split” are “overwhelming,” Brown said.

“So this summer you are going to see ODOT paint what they call tattoos on the roadway,” he said.

Such markings are on I-80 east just before the exit to state Route 11 north into Trumbull County as well as I-80 east closer to the U.S. Route 422 exit in Girard.

“We’re going to implement that here in Mahoning County and hopefully drive down those crashes that are occurring,” Brown said. “We identified the problem. We got with our partnerships here in Mahoning County being ODOT and we showed them the evidence and they agreed to put those emblems on the roads, in addition to the signage that is there. And we hope to reduce the amount of crashes we are seeing in that area.”


Brown said this is the time of year when traffic safety officials remind motorists that the “100 Deadliest Days” for driving begin on Memorial Day and continue until the end of summer on Labor Day.

“Those 100 days historically have the highest number of fatal crashes, because of the nice weather, the number of events taking place to bring people out into their cars and more motorcyclists,” Brown said.

“A lot of people are going to be traveling, and the odds of having a crash are probably greater,” he said.


As for Mahoning County’s fatalities and crash stats so far this year, the number of fatalities grew by two compared to the first 4.5 months of 2023. There have been four crash fatalities in Mahoning County so far this year, compared to two at this point in 2023.

Surprisingly, two of the four fatalities involve pedestrians, Brown said.

“You can look at statistics a million different ways,” Brown said. “When I look at these numbers from the post commander’s perspective, I’m looking at the fatal crashes, and then our overall crash picture. So if you look at our crashes compared to last year that we are handling here at the Canfield post, they are down slightly.”

The total number of crashes overall also is a little lower than this time in 2023. There have been 1,791 crashes of all kinds so far this year, compared to 1,956 during the first 4.5 months of 2023.

Thirty-two suspected serious injuries were reported so far in 2024 compared to 42 at this time last year.

The number of crashes handled by the Canfield post through the end of April 2024 was 358. By comparison, the post handled 361 crashes through the end of April 2023.

As for the higher number of crash fatals, “I would love for that number to be closer to zero. The lower the better, but there is nothing alarming. It’s not like we had a huge spike in fatals or anything like that,” Brown said.


The Vindicator searched its files and crash reports to discover that among the four fatal crashes so far in 2024, the first one involved a wrong-way driver on I-680 near Williamson Avenue on Youngstown’s South Side that killed driver Shawn Carlson, 36, of Wisconsin and injured a 60-year-old Boardman man driving the other car.

A Youngstown police crash report states that the head-on crash was at 1:28 a.m. and that Carlson’s vehicle was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes. Carlson tested positive for alcohol at a level of 0.243, which is three times the legal limit to drive of 0.08.

The three other fatalities were March 3, March 11 and March 13, the first two being pedestrian fatalities.

The March 3 fatality killed Catherine L. Ruggly, 48, of Austintown, while she was walking on Alliance-Sebring Road near Oyster Road in Smith Township aroun 9 p.m. when an unknown sport utility vehicle struck her. She was taken to Aultman Hospital in Canton, where she was pronounced dead.

The March 11 fatality killed Linda Adams, 66, as she walked near the road on Lancaster Drive in Austintown with another person.

James Stehura, 49, of Wedgewood Drive in Austintown was indicted earlier this month on one count of reckless homicide, one count of leaving the scene of an accident and one count of tampering with evidence in the crash.

The fourth fatality killed Gregory Endsley, 65, late March 13 on Poland Avenue near Walton Street in Youngstown. It was a single-vehicle crash. No crash report is available yet on the Ohio Department of Public Safety website.

Have an interesting story? Contact Ed Runyan by email at erunyan@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.


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