Bartholomew County ordinance would create $500 fine for ignoring flooded road closures

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind.-- It's that time of the year when we're seeing more rain in the forecast, which can lead to dangerous, flooded roads. If you plan to ignore a road closed sign in Bartholomew County, you might want to start saving up.

You put your life at risk every time you drive through impassible roads due to high water. For many in Bartholomew County, the risk appears to be worth it and that has county leaders worried.

"One who actually passed the officer, passed the road closed sign, into the water said, I was just following the car in front of me,” said Shannan Hinton, the Director of Emergency Management.

Hinton and first responders are pushing for the commissioners to pass a new ordinance with your safety in mind.

"Right now, there's not a local ordinance in place,” explained Hinton. “The officers can write a citation based on the state statute. The fine is approximately $140."

If a driver were to get caught ignoring a road closed sign they would face a $500 fine. The ordinance is not referring to a high-water sign, it’s specifically is in regard to closed roads.

"It's not that this happens every once in a while, this literally happens every single time that we have road closures that we will have someone in one of the locations, drivers completely disregarding the signs and driving through the water,” said Hinton.

Hinton says it’s discouraging. Over the years, the county has placed large trucks in front of flooded roads to stop drivers. They even tried flood gates, which weren’t successful. Hinton says drivers have cut the locks or rammed through the gates.

Over the last five years, there have been 514 water rescue calls in Bartholomew County. So far in 2019, there have already been 38 calls. Hinton says that should be alarming to any driver.

"We had one road closed for one day and officers did 10 traffic stops on that road for people who drove around the barricade and through the water,” said Hinton, “A detour that day could have taken them an extra three minutes."

By bringing attention to this ordinance, Hinton wants to prove that taking a detour is the smartest route and the cheapest.

"A higher fine and a bit more of an impact,” said Hinton.

Commissioners have passed along the ordinance draft to the county attorney. Hinton says there’s no timeline as of now on when the fine could be implemented. We did reach out to the Bartholomew County commissioners for comment, but we have not heard back.

Bartholomew County isn’t alone on this issue. They’re formatting their ordinance similar to ones in Jackson and Vanderburgh counties.

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