Columbus Police will cite drivers who stop on highway to watch fireworks

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus Division of Police said it will cite any drivers who stop on the freeway, exit their vehicles on the freeway or impede traffic in order to view the fireworks show at the downtown Columbus Red, White, and Boom! celebration Tuesday night.

CrimeTracker 10 obtained dash camera video from July 3, 2017 depicting officers repeatedly honking and laying on their horns to force dozens of stopped vehicles off of the berm and out of center medians.

Police said they've seen some shocking violations on the freeway during the fireworks.

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Freeway Sergeant Isaac Bridges said he once observed a vehicle pulled off into the berm on I-670 near Grandview Avenue. He said the driver was setting up lawn chairs on the roof of his van.

"And putting his kids up on top of the van on the lawn chairs on the freeway so they could watch the fireworks," said Sgt. Bridges.

It's not an isolated incident. Sgt. Joe Curmode with the CPD Motorcycle Unit described witnessing a minivan stopped in the center lane of I-670 near Neil Avenue with the side door wide open.

"He had the children sitting in that open doorway with their feet dangling outside with the parents still in the front seats," said Sgt. Curmode.

Police say stopping on the freeway is extremely dangerous because drivers traveling freeway speed, between 65 and 75 miles per hour, can easily become distracted by the fireworks and crash into a stopped vehicle.

Police said drivers who pull over to watch the fireworks show can also cause an accident when they attempt to merge back on to the freeway after the show is over.

"There is no minor accident on the freeway," said Sgt. Curmode.

CrimeTracker 10 researched traffic citations on July 3, 2017 between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. and found police issued eight citations.

Police told CrimeTracker 10 that's a small fraction of the drivers who were chased away by officers, but say it's dangerous for officers to get out of their cruisers and write citations on the freeway during fireworks for fear of distracted or drunk drivers steering into them.

That same day, police cited 29 drivers in the city of Columbus for OVI.

Police said Tuesday they are taking a zero-tolerance policy and citing anyone who stops on the freeway.

Police reminded drivers that the Red, White, and Boom fireworks usually last between 20 to 30 minutes and said that's plenty of time for drivers to exit the freeway and park on a neighborhood street where their family can view the fireworks without putting anyone's life at risk.

"It's not worth losing your life over fireworks," said Sgt. Bridges.