Overextended Student Crashes Into Gateway Pillar

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The wreck pictured here is the first incident of its kind involving the brick pillar. Photo courtesy of the Miami University Police Department

By Ryan McSheffrey

An 18-year-old freshman fell asleep at the wheel and crashed head-on into Miami’s newly constructed gateway pillar in the middle of Patterson Avenue last week.

Andrew Cantrell, a student at the Miami-Hamilton campus, drove his 2005 Pontiac Vibe into the brick pillar at 6:21 p.m. on Sept. 19. He was not injured.

“[I was] under a lot of stress, going to college, working 40 hours, trying to balance all that,” Cantrell said. “I’ve had a little bit of trouble with insomnia.”

The pillar is the centerpiece of Miami’s Gateway Project that provided more dramatic campus entrances from Patterson and OH 73. The pillar, traffic islands and crosswalks were built during the summer and walls along the roadsides remain under construction. According to university officials, Cantrell is he first motorist to hit the pillar.

“I was just driving and all of a sudden, I remember my face hitting the steering wheel and thinking, ‘What the heck happened?’,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell’s car sustained heavy front-end damage and his airbag deployed, according to the Miami University Police, who responded to the crash. Cantrell was cited for failure to maintain reasonable control and not wearing a seatbelt.

Although an Oxford to You car sign was on the Pontiac’s roof, Cantrell said he was not on the clock for the food delivery service at the time of the crash.

Cantrell said he is glad to have hit the pillar rather than another car or a pedestrian. “I’m thankful for it, actually, because if it wasn’t there, I would have done a lot more damage,” he said. “It saved me from someone else’s medical bills, repairing someone’s car.”

The gateway project has two goals, said Cody Powell, the university’s associate vice president of facilities. One is letting travelers know they’re entering campus, and the other is slowing drivers down.

“The roadway was so open and wide, they motored through there at a pretty good clip,” Powell said. Miami worked with the city to reduce the posted speed limit to 25 mph.

The pillar “gives drivers more of that restricted feeling that slows and calms the traffic,” Powell said. He added that Miami now is considering putting bollards—3-foot-high concrete bumpers—in the middle of the road to protect the pillar from wayward drivers.

The pillar sustained only a few scratches, and is awaiting a few final finishing touches anyway, Powell said. The top third of it, now a plain gray, will be adorned with “MU” plaques.