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|Local resident takes on bureaucracies for
traffic light at deadly intersection
web posted May 6, 2005
School busses entering the intersection of Highway 25 and Bettis Academy Road are a concern. Kevin McLaughlin, who is the District Traffic Engineer for district two says those concerns are best directed at the school board, “If there is a problem or an unsafe section of a route, that is best addressed by seeking an alternate route to avoid areas of concern,” he said adding the South Carolina Department of Transportation has no control over local bus routes.
District Engineering Administrator Phillip Brooks stated they have studied the intersection since January of 1996 and the last study was done in March of 2005. Most of the problems revealed in their studies surrounded the turning radius of large trucks entering and exiting Highway 25 and that problem, Brooks said, has been resolved. “Since the installation of the divided turning lanes and the radius improvements we have seen a drop in actionable accidents,” he said.
Mr. McLaughlin said he personally did the studies conducted by the SCDOT for the intersection and that his counts and observations did not meet the “warrant analysis” guidelines for a traffic device under the requirements they must go by. Asked if any consideration as to the number of types of traffic, transfer trucks versus cars and pick-ups, even school busses were considered he said, “A vehicle is a vehicle, we give no more weight to one type over the other.”
Confronted as to if either Mr. Brooks or Mr. McLaughlin considered the intersection to be a “dangerous” intersection they replied that any intersection that is taken in for study has accidents. When corrective action is taken and a drop in accident numbers show that action was successful they move on to more pressing traffic issues which do meet the necessary “actionable requirements” and the public is better served by addressing those.
Both men agreed that installing a traffic light at the intersection could, “potentially cause more accidents than it solves,” and that the “rear end potential goes up,” Brooks said. McLaughlin added that the installation of a light would also increase other traffic problems further up Highway 25 and other intersections by placing “compacted traffic” that would make entering otherwise safe intersections potentially dangerous. The cause and effect of any action is something that must be considered in any decision.
Mr. McLaughlin said that since the intersection was improved in July of 2004 there has only been one accident and fatality that he is aware of and it carried less weight because it involved an intoxicated driver who ran the stop sign. “That,” McLaughlin said, “isn’t something that can be corrected with a traffic device.”
Saundra Curry disagrees with their figures, “I know for a fact there have been at least three accidents since the turn lanes have been installed,” she said with one in November of 2004 and another in January of 2005 and she was unsure which month the third was in.
Help is on the way however, Mr. Brooks said, “There is a project on the books that will five lane Highway 25 from the present four lane area all the way to SC25/121 and SC19," otherwise known as the Pinehouse Crossroads. “I believe when that is done it will solve all the problems,” Brooks said. However that help is years away. “It should be completed in the next five to eight years,” Mr. Brooks said.
Curry says she wonders what the wait will cost, “Five to eight years, how many are going to die until then?” she asked. On the recent data that would suggest another twenty accidents with a little under one third resulting in a death, unless one involves a school bus.
Asked if seeking a lower speed limit through the area that was strictly enforced would solve a majority of the problems Curry said, “Probably so,” adding that “speed is one of the main problems,” and that the fact a majority of the traffic is big trucks makes that even more important. “When those trucks are turning in or out they block the sight of everybody else. At those speeds they can’t stop, they got no place to go,” she said.
Edgefield Daily.com has not been in touch with the Sheriff’s Department at this writing as to what help they could provide in making the intersection safer until further improvements can be made. Most traffic enforcement is the responsibility of the SC Highway Patrol which has not returned a call for comment yet.
Addressing speed limits is an alternative avenue Curry said she might consider. For now, however, she is going to continue attending council meetings and plans to address the school board due to the safety of the local children whose busses enter and exit that area during rush hour traffic. “The busses run when everyone is going to work and the trucks are everywhere,” she said adding one of her main concerns is the children. “You could wipe out a neighborhood of kids,” she said if a transfer truck hit a school bus.
South Carolina currently has the second highest highway fatality rate in the nation.
Over 50% of South Carolina's speeding-related deaths occur on two-lane roads.
Narrow, two-lane roads are statistically the most dangerous highways in America.
Primary and secondary roads carry 74% of the traffic. Yet, more than 90% of all crashes occur on those roads.
The secondary roads, which are the most severely under-funded, are the deadliest highways in the state.
Mile for mile, South Carolina is the lowest funded state highway system in the nation.
South Carolina has the fourth largest state-maintained highway system in the nation.
South Carolina taxpayers contribute less in state highway taxes than the taxpayers in any other state.
Virtually all funding (95%) for South Carolina highways comes from the motor fuel tax.
The state gasoline tax is 16¢ per gallon.
South Carolina owns:
* 41,518 Road Miles
* 8,205 Bridges (259.2 Miles)
* 4 Rest Areas and Welcome Centers
* 23,000,000 linear feet of curb & gutter
* 1,204,000 driveways
* 81,300 miles of ditches
* 75,000 shoulder miles of mowing
* More than 20,000,000 linear feet of sidewalks
* 6,135,183 feet or 1,162 miles of guardrail
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