Jeffrey D. McElwain, 54, of Lodi is pictured in a family photo with his wife and children. McElwain was killed in a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of U.S. 224 and Friendsville Road in Westfield Township Wednesday evening.
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WESTFIELD TWP. — Jeffrey McElwain spent his life behind the wheel.
The 54-year-old Lodi man worked as a commercial truck driver for several years and was currently a bus driver for Highland Schools, McElwain’s son, Jeffrey McElwain Jr., 35, said Wednesday.
His chosen profession makes his death harder for his family to accept.
“He literally never had an at-fault accident in his life,” the younger McElwain said about his father.
Jeffrey McElwain died Wednesday evening after being involved in a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of U.S. Route 224 and Friendsville Road, the second traffic fatality in the area in less than two weeks.
According to a release from the Ohio Highway Patrol, McElwain was traveling westbound on 224 when his 2015 Ford F-150 collided with a 2012 Dodge Ram 3500 driven by Harland Hall, 22, also of Lodi. Hall was traveling northbound on Friendsville Road.
McElwain died of his injuries at the scene.
The crash is still under investigation. As such, further details including who was at fault were not available Thursday. Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the crash, the release said. In addition, neither driver was reportedly wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Hall was transported to Lodi Hospital, where he was treated and released.
Jeffrey McElwain Jr. said that he was told Hall failed to stop at a traffic signal at the intersection, causing the crash.
“He was a really great dad,” McElwain said. “He loved his job, he loved driving his bus.”
A district statement released Thursday said the elder McElwain was employed by the district for about one year.
“Jeff was a bus driver at Highland Schools for only the past year, but he made an impact on many people here. He was very compassionate,” the statement said. “He always made sure the students on his bus route were safe and taken care of and he was happy to be surrounded by their smiling faces.”
The death marks the second time a driver has died on that stretch of road this month.
Michael Kachurchak, 67, of Creston was killed Oct. 3 at Route 224 and Westfield Road when a 2008 Dodge Sprinter van struck his 2002 Nissan Pathfinder at 4:22 p.m., according to the patrol.
Kachurchak died at the scene from his injuries.
Both crashes dredge up past concerns for traffic in the area, which was such a hot button topic that several public meetings devoted to the topic were held in 2017.
Westfield Township Trustee Mike Schmidt said township officials are aware of the safety concerns in the area, and efforts have been made to try and address them.
“There is obviously a lot of traffic on 224 and I think probably one of the biggest issues is the speed out there,” Schmidt said Thursday. “The posted speed limit was 60 miles per hour, but when it is posted at 60 people are going 70, 75, 80 (miles per hour).
Schmidt said he would like to see the current speed limit reduced, but the Ohio Department of Transportation has not addressed his concerns since they were voiced during an August meeting.
“We had a meeting with ODOT, it was called a stakeholders meeting and I challenged them to identify another four lane divided highway in northeast Ohio with roads intersecting across it like that where the speed limit was 60 miles per hour,” he said.
Schmidt said he is not convinced plans by ODOT to construct “R-Cuts” or restricted crossing U-turns at 224 and Westfield Road, the site of the Oct. 3 fatal crash, will be enough to eliminate the roadway’s safety issues. A restricted crossing U-turn is an intersection design that restricts left turns at an intersection, but allows movement downstream with a U-turn.
ODOT District 3 spokeswoman Kaitlyn Thompson said in an email Thursday that ODOT shares in the safety concerns for the roadway, and construction on the R-Cut will begin next May, with a projected completion date of December 2019.
“To create the R-Cut we will close the median at U.S. 224 and Westfield Road, provide median breaks on US 224 for the u-turns, and install deceleration lanes on U.S. 224 at the -turn locations,” Thompson said in the email.
“The deceleration lanes, eastbound and westbound, will allow motorists to turn left into the u-turn medians and to turn right onto Westfield Road.”
Thompson said with the intersections current design it allows for more possible angle type crashes, however studies have shown that intersections with R-Cuts see a reduction in similar crashes.