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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview with Dean Johnson

Aired June 23, 2003 - 19:36   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. There are more serious problem on the nation's roads. Serious dangers creating sometimes fatal risks. A new study says bad signs, not enough light and dangerous intersections are responsible for thousands of traffic deaths over the last few years. In other words, roads simply can kill.
Dean Johnson knows that all too well. His wife Sandy and his mother-in-law were killed at a poorly marked intersection in central Ohio and that led him to start campaigning for safer roads. He joins us now from Columbus. Dean, thanks for being with us. After your wife's accident, you knew she's with a good driver. You started doing research about this particular intersection where she and your mother- in-law had been killed.

What did you find out?

DEAN JOHNSON, HUSBAND OF CAR CRASH VICTIM: Well, I found out that over the past 13 years, there have been no fewer than five studies conducted by the Ohio Department of Transportation. And that not one of those studies pinpointed the cause of the high accident rate there.

COOPER: And, how frustrating is that to know all the studies have been done but little to no action had been taken?

JOHNSON: I don't have any wife anymore. So obviously it is very frustrating. However, the problem continues across the country at an extremely high level. And that needs to be corrected.

COOPER: What is the problem?

Is it officials slow to act?

They don't think this is a problem?

In your opinion what is it?

JOHNSON: The problem is that most of the departments of transportation around the country have been around for many of years, some of them 100 years or more. They have an extremely convoluted system of how they address dangerous intersections, and how they go about correcting them and analyzing the problems at those locations. What needs to be done is the federal government, unfortunately, needs to get involved. Legislation needs to be passed that will force the departments of transportation to first of all openly recognize dangerous intersections, then create an atmosphere that will enable them to correctly identify the cause and the problem, and then force them, in a timely manner, to correct those problems. And I don't mean years, I mean months.

COOPER: Well, Dean, how can people who are watching this at home find out about intersections near them, find out about dangerous intersections in their neighborhoods?

JOHNSON: You know, that's really hard to do. Because if they contact -- in at least 36 states if they contact their department of transportation, their department of transportation will not release that information. And that's one of the major problems that face motorists across this country. There are governors and departments of transportation directors that place the fear of litigation above their willingness to save lives. And they literally hide that information from the public. We have accessed 14 states and that information is available on our website. We have accessed 14 states that are willing to share that information. And we in turn are sharing that information with the public.

COOPER: Dean, I appreciate you coming and sharing your thoughts with us tonight.

Dean Johnson, thank you very much for being with us.

JOHNSON: You're welcome.

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