Michelle Rowley, For The Miami Student

(ERIN KILLINGER | The Miami Student)

The country roads that surround Miami University’s wooded campus are unavoidable when leaving the city of Oxford. With vast rolling hills and sharp turns, accidents may sometimes result when drivers aren’t cautious.

This year seems to be on pace for fewer fatal car crashes in the rural areas of Butler County. Statistics taken from the Ohio Highway Patrol show that in 2009 and 2010, there were 12 and 19 fatal crashes, respectively, in the county’s rural areas. Through September of this year, there have only been 6 fatal crashes in those areas.

Although the roads are very safe today, they were not always this way. The roads of Butler County started off as small cattle paths for local farmers to use, according to Fred Stitsinger, administrative deputy at the Butler County Engineering Office.

Stitsinger said the roads today are engineered to be extremely safe. Rumble strips, delineators, warning signs, turn lanes and many other devices are used to ensure the safety of drivers. As far as improvements are concerned, the Butler County Engineering Department is always looking for new ways to improve the roads.

“There’s always something we can do. We’re always making safety improvements, however we can’t engineer the driver out of the equation,” Stitsinger said.

There are many variables that affect the accident rate that cannot be controlled. It is up to the driver to be aware of their surroundings at all times and watch for deer, as well as adjust speed to accommodate the unpredictable Ohio weather.

However, students do not seem to mind these roads.

Senior Brian Bell said he does not feel he needs to drastically change his driving habits during the winter months.

“I’m usually in a car with 4-wheel drive and I know how to handle the car in the winter weather.” Bell said.

Bell said he believes the only threat to his driving is deer crossing the roads both during the day and at night.

Sophomore Maeve Andrews, who uses the roads to travel to Hamilton at times, feels safe on these roads as well, but thinks they’re very different than the roads and freeways in central Ohio, where I-75 is straight, with very few curves or hills.

“When you drive on the roads around here, it’s like riding a roller coaster at times,” Andrews said.

Although the roads are built to meet high safety standards, there is always the unforeseen that can cause unwanted problems. During the winter, black ice and snow flurries pose a threat to drivers’ sight, as well as cause the car to skid out of control, according to Stitsinger. With the area being heavily wooded, it is important to follow all speed limits and adjust your speed to the weather conditions in order to keep control of your vehicle.

Improvements are continually being made to keep up with the latest technologies.

“We’re doing good … it’s getting better,” Stitsinger said.

As the Butler County Engineering Office continues to work on improvements for the roads, the injury and death rates are steadily declining.