- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The family of an Ohio schoolteacher critically injured when a rock was dropped on their car from an overpass has helped push through new state rules to limit the chances such a tragedy could happen to someone else.

Thanks in part to the efforts of Sharon Budd and her husband Randy, any new or rehabbed bridges over most busy highways in Ohio now will be required to be topped with chain-link fencing to deter vandals. The change in Ohio Department of Transportation rules took effect Jan. 1.

Budd, a 54-year-old middle-school language arts teacher who lives in the Akron area, suffered catastrophic head injuries when a 5-pound rock dropped from an overpass crashed through the windshield of her family’s car as they drove in Interstate 80 in central Pennsylvania in July 2014. Four young men were convicted and sentenced to prison in a case that attracted national attention.

Last year, Randy Budd approached state Sen. Scott Oelslager, who represents their northeastern Ohio district. Oelslager, a Republican from North Canton, arranged meetings with state transportation officials, who were receptive to the idea of installing the fencing on new bridges and overpasses, and when construction is required to rehabilitate old ones.

“I kept thinking, this had to happen for a reason. Why would this happen?” said Randy Budd, 55. “There has got to be something good to come out of this, and it happened. Now it’s going to have an impact in Ohio for years and years to come, and somebody else won’t have to go through what we’re going through - or even death.”

Transportation officials say it means at least 108 bridges or overpasses will get fencing 6 to 8 feet high in the next few years without significant added costs to the projects.

“I think this will give peace of mind to the travelers in the state of Ohio,” Oelslager said.

Ohio State Highway Patrol records show at least 95 incidents since 2011 of vehicles being hit by items ranging from rocks and bricks to pumpkins and beer bottles that were either thrown or dropped from overpasses. At least two people were injured as a result.

Randy Budd said he wants to start lobbying officials in Pennsylvania, where the incident occurred, to adopt similar measures. Officials say Pennsylvania already has various rules for fencing some bridges and overpasses with no current movement to change them. Budd said he wants to also take the campaign nationwide.

Sharon Budd has had seven major surgeries and lost part of her brain and one of her eyes. Because part of her brain was affected, she’ll require constant care at home for the rest of her life, her husband said.

The four young men who were engaged in a day of mischief that forever changed Budd’s life were sentenced to minimum prison terms last year ranging from 11½ months to 4½ years. All also will be on probation for years. Some of them apologized to Budd in court.

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