Bartholomew County officials call for caution after uptick in crashes, traffic deaths

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BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. – Bartholomew County authorities are asking drivers to be more cautious behind the wheel after a sharp increase in crashes and multiple traffic deaths.

“We’ve seen an increase in serious traffic accidents this summer,” said Major Chris Lane with the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department. “I can’t put my finger on why, but it’s definitely something of concern.”

Over the last month, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department has investigated crashes that resulted in four traffic fatalities. That’s compared to five traffic fatalities in all of 2020 and four in 2019.

The recent fatalities include 65-year-old Richard Ott and his 72-year-old wife Wanda Ott, who were killed in an August 9 crash

Columbus East High School Junior Lily Streeval died after being struck by a vehicle while trying to get on her school bus August 30. Shiam Sunder Shankara Subramanian, 25, of Columbus, is facing criminal charges for allegedly disregarding the school bus stop arm and flashing lights before striking Streeval. 

On Sunday, police say 65-year-old Richard Campbell, of Edinburgh, died in a single-vehicle accident at the 69.5 mile marker of I-65.  

Columbus police also responded to a deadly crash Sunday evening near the 64.5 mile marker of I-65. Police say a driver going northbound in the construction area of the interstate hit some construction barrels before hitting a concrete barrier. The impact flipped the 2001 Ford Ranger onto its hood. The driver was thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene.

Major Lane said several other recent crashes on county roads have also resulted in serious injuries.

“They weren’t fatalities but very well easily could have been,” Lane said.

He also said reckless driving and driver inattention appear to be involved in the bulk of recent serious accidents.

“You’re not paying attention to your speed, you’re not paying attention to the stop signs, the lane markings, school bus arms,” he said, “all those things come into play.”

Indiana State Police Sergeant Stephen Wheeles said serious crashes often seem to come in waves.

“You know, we can go a long time and not have the serious types of crashes,” Wheeles said, “and then all of a sudden, for some reason, we get a bunch that happen all at one time.”

Wheeles added that waves of serious crashes often coincide with changing weather conditions. Other times, however, they can happen for seemingly no specific reason.

The recent crashes and traffic deaths are prompting public safely officials to ask drivers to slow down and think about how to reduce distractions behind the wheel.

“People just need to slow down and take a deep breath and travel safely on our roads to get from point A to point B,” Lane said. “And then they’re not only maybe saving their own life, they could be saving somebody else’s.”

“Unfortunately, you can’t control the actions of other drives, but do your part to make sure you’re safe, that you’re not taking those extra risks by driving recklessly, driving dangerously,” Wheeles said. “We encourage people to drive very defensively, you know, expect that person next to you to not be able to see you, to change lanes.”

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