Seeking change at 'deadly' intersection
Jason Paul Eisenhuth, a military veteran now serving as a military contractor, caught my eye with this copy of a message he sent to the State Highway Administration after the death of his mother-in-law, Ruth Ortiz, in a fatal crash.
"I'm writing to you today about a particular intersection on U.S. Route 222, located in Rising Sun/Conowingo MD area. The roads at this intersection are Old Conowingo Rd., Route 222, and Ragan Rd. This intersection has drawn my attention in the fact that [it] is a deadly one. My mother in law was killed February 28th of this year, at 3:15 pm. A full sized F-150 ran the oversized stop sign on Old Conowingo road at 35 mph, into the traffic traveling on 222, where the average rate of speed is 60 mph. Without going into great detail, the truck struck a sedan traveling south, overturned, and then landed on top of Ruth Ortiz's car traveling north. The collision killed her instantly.
"Why should this event be taken differently than any other? It's the fact that most collisions that result in fatalities are quickly forgotten about. That being said, little to no action usually takes place to analyze the scene and cause of the accident. How many accidents, fatal or not, does it take to change a traffic pattern, or any intersection?
"On my own, I went back out to the scene of my mother-in-law's accident, and I took a good hard look at what measures have been taken to ensure people are aware of the intersection they're approaching. As I was standing alongside Route 222, a dump truck and trailer roared through the intersection at roughly 70+ mph. On Route 222, there is a single yellow flashing warning light about 1,500 ft from the intersection, only traveling northbound on Route 222 towards the intersection.
"What happened to southbound? On Ragan Rd. and Old Conowingo Rd., there are oversized stop signs, one sign at the end of each road. Yes, there are warnings, but are they enough? Personally, I think not.
"I had the opportunity to speak with several of the surrounding residents about their opinion and experiences about/with this intersection. Some of them witnessed the accident that day that took Ruth Ortiz's life, and severely injured her passengers. The consensus I received from the people I talked to was that this intersection is a terrible hazard, and something should be put into motion to change it.
"I am not grinding an axe because of what happened to Ruth Ortiz, I decided to take action because there are not enough civilians that do... or maybe they're ignored or brushed aside. There are hundreds of thousands of accidents that happen daily in our country. How many cause solid changes to keep people safe? I wouldn't want to see those numbers compared.
"What are the steps in making an official complaint? Proposed solution? There are many options in redesigning this intersection. My first suggestion would of course be a full fledged 4-way traffic light system... Red,Yellow and Green. Second, a 4-way red flashing light system, causing all traffic to at least slow down and stop for a moment. Third, installation of a traffic circle in this intersection -- very effective in slowing traffic. I stress to you how important this situation is to me, and to the safety of others."
REPLY: First of all, I'm sorry for your family's loss. It's a great thing you're doing, channeling grief into trying to achieve a productive result for others. The engineering and maintenance of state and county roads is something citizens ought to raise questions about.
Having covered the State Highway Administration for several years, I can tell you the agency does take fatal crashes seriously. Whether it makes the appropriate changes in all cases is a matter for debate.
I forwarded your message to the press office of the SHA and discussed its procedures with spokesman Dave Buck. He said the agency reviews police reports of all fatal crashes on state roads (such as Route 222) to see whether the circumstances raise questions about the road itself.
Buck agreed to look into the matter and get back. I'll post his reply.