BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio -- Butler County continues to be the deadliest place in Ohio for collisions between vehicles and trains, a position it's held for more than a decade, according to an analysis by WCPO media partner the Journal-News.
There were eight collisions between trains and vehicles in Butler County last year out of 83 statewide. One of those collisions, in Middletown, killed Jan Martin, who was riding in the front passenger seat of a church van carrying children to Bible school. The driver, Judith Ashley, told two firefighters she had been "taking Vicodin and Adderall all day" before that crash, according to a state traffic incident report.
Experts told the Journal-News that impatience, inattention and increased train traffic also appear to factors in why the crash fatality rate rose sharply from 2014 to 2015. Fatalities at highway-rail grade crossings in Ohio more than doubled in 2015, according to data analyzed by the Journal-News.
The majority of collisions happen at rail crossings with gates and lights and vehicles "trying to beat trains," said Matt Schilling, a spokesman for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
Butler County has 121 miles of tracks, much of those in populated areas such as Middletown and Oxford.
Statewide, rail crossing collisions were down 2.4 percent in 2015 from 2014, to 83 -- but fatalities rose 20 percent to 12, and crossing injuries rose 12.9 percent to 35, according to Federal Railroad Administration data reviewed by the Journal-News.