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Sandy Johnson's Story

On October 5, 2002, Sandy Johnson and her mother Jackie were killed in a violent two car crash at an intersection east of Columbus, Ohio. On the following day, Sandy’s husband, Dean, traveled to the site in order to meet with the patrolman in charge of the crash investigation. His purpose was to try and find the cause of Sandy’s crash.


During that twenty minute meeting at the site, as they discussed that fatal collision, they were witness to utter chaos as three separate crashes were narrowly avoided. Upon asking the trooper what was wrong at that intersection to cause such apparent confusion, the trooper responded with a disturbing answer. He said he didn’t know, but the crashes had been occurring for over a decade resulting in other fatalities. Even more disturbing was his statement that law enforcement had been trying for years to get highway authorities to correct the problem without success.


Alarmed by that response, immediately following the funerals of his wife and her mother, Dean arranged for a meeting with an assignment editor for The Columbus Dispatch, Central Ohio’s prominent newspaper. At the conclusion of that meeting, the assignment editor agreed to conduct an investigation of the crash site.


That investigation was quite enlightening. It revealed that the intersection had been studied six times over the previous 13 years with no cause for crashes being identified. In response to one of those studies, a costly modification was made to the highway on the southbound approach to the intersection. But rather than reduce the frequency of crashes at the site, the change prompted drivers to increase speed while driving through the area, increasing the danger and leading the way to an ultimate ranking of “eighth most dangerous intersection in the state.”


Troubled by the discoveries of the newspaper’s investigation, and filled with a desire to prevent others from experiencing a similar tragedy, Mr. Johnson initiated his own investigation. He started by reviewing the results of the six highway studies. In addition, he evaluated the traffic pattern leading to the site and interviewed other victims involved in crashes at that location.


The results of his research exposed “conditioning” as the underlying cause behind the crashes that had plagued that site for so many years. With further study, Dean recognized that conditioning, and its resulting influence, was the underlying cause of nearly all vehicular crashes and he gave that phenomenon a name: Driver Conditioning. After assigning that name, the following definition was developed: Driver Conditioning is “the process through which drivers become conditioned to respond to traffic patterns and road conditions that remain consistent over an undefined period of time or distance.”


To date, after years of study, research, and development, The Sandy Johnson Foundation has created three separate programs in order to insure safer highways.

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