SHA responds to son-in-law's plea
I ran a letter on this blog yesterday from Jason Paul Eisenhuth, whose mother-in-law was killed in a crash along U.S. 222 in Cecil County in January. He was urging the State Highway Administration to make changes to the intersection where the crash occurred.
Here is the reply from SHA spokesman David Buck:
We are truly sorry for Mr. Eisenhuth's loss in this tragic crash. It is not lost on SHA, there are long-term emotional losses after every crash and we sincerely wish there were zero fatal crashes so people do not have to go through the pain and suffering.
SHA did recently receive the fatal crash report regarding the crash along US 222 at Ragan Road. In that February fatal crash, according to the official police report, a vehicle ran a clearly marked stop sign on the side road, Old Conowingo Road, causing the tragic fatal crash. Driver error is the cause of more than 93% of all crashes in MD.
Based on police crash reports since 2005, for the three an one-half year period covering 2005 through the first four months of 2008, there were a total of four policed-reported crashes at this intersection (zero fatalities). And while we wish the number was zero, over a 40 month period, that is a low incidence of crashes. SHA must base our decisions on sound engineering principles.
Additionally, as Mr. Eisenhuth's mentions, there is a flashing beacon on the NB side of US 222 warning motorists of the intersection ahead. This was put in place several years ago as there is a slight sight distance issue on the NB side of US 222 approaching the intersection. Conversely, there is no flashing warning sign on the SB side as the sight distance is excellent approaching the intersection.
With that said, SHA engineers will conduct a thorough analysis of the intersection within the next 45-60 days. However, an initial review by engineers indicate this is not a likely location where engineers would consider certain traffic control devices including:
-- a traffic signal (very low traffic volumes on the side roads among other factors);
-- a four-way stop (US 222 is the main road and should remain free flow; stopping traffic along the main road of US 222 would likely cause an increase in high-speed rear-end crashes) or;
-- a roundabout (an effective solution in many instances, but there is no crash pattern or trend that would support a roundabout).
This does not mean SHA will not consider other improvements -- just that based on the facts of the US 222 fatal crash in February, coupled with our engineers decades of experience, the above improvements would be unlikely.
SHA appreciates Mr. Eisenhuth's letter and we ask motorists to continue to Choose Safety for Life by adhering to the B-Safe principle (Buckle Up, Slow Down, Always Drive Sober, Focus, Everyone Share the Road) I hope this helps.
MDOT - State Highway Administration
Office of Communications
This may not be the answer Eisenhuth wanted, but it tells me the SHA is taking his concerns seriously.
On one hand, the fact that something bad happens at an intersection doesn't make it a bad intersection. Even the best road design can't overcome some driver errors.
On the other hand, the best outcomes come when the engineers listen to the public and the public listens back. We civilians are pretty good at sensing that there's something wrong about an intersection. But it takes a professional to evaluate the proposed solutions and to predict the results of each. Ultimately they have to weigh whether any changes to an intersection would be worth the cost in our dollars.
I hope Eisenhuth will stay on top of this and keep up a continuing discussion with the SHA. He's raised thoughtful questions and deserves a full explanation -- perhaps at the site -- from a professional.