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When is too many not enough? 
web posted January 5, 2006

OPINION – When is too many not enough? When it comes to state bureaucrats trying to explain why they do not take action. The issue surrounding a traffic light at the intersection of Bettis Academy Road and Highway 25 goes back decades. However, with the recent growth that Edgefield County has seen, and most notably the southern part of the county including the Bettis Academy area, the death toll keeps rising. As the death total goes up so does the number of excuses South Carolina Department of Transportation Officials give for their inaction. Too many deaths are not enough for the state to take action.

Many of the residents of the area, led by Saundra Curry, confronted the Edgefield County Council and the single member of the Legislative Delegation (State Rep. Bill Clyburn) as well as SC DOT Officials Phillip Brooks and Kevin McLaughlin. State Senator Tommy Moore (who is running for governor) and Rep. Don Smith did not show up as requested to discuss the roadblocks to a traffic light.

As Mr. Brooks and Mr. McLaughlin gave their textbook answers they soon found out in short order that, not only were the people of the Bettis Academy area not accepting it, but that the rest of the county residents were also in support of the light. Everyone expressed they were tired of the “numbers say…” tripe so often referred to. Moreover, the county council stressed its support for the signal.

The over all question remained, just how many deaths warrant a traffic signal at the intersection? According to information presented there has to be five wrecks in a one-year period to warrant a signal being installed. Why does the word death, or number of deaths, not appear in that “warranted class” some ask. You can literally have three crashes a year killing four, five, or even eight men, women, and children a year and still not meet the “numbers” supporting the cookie cutter application of regulations supporting a traffic light.

The very real numbers add up to an indisputable fact, eventually the crash that happens could involve a school bus full of children. That may be the only “accident” for that year but it could take the lives of dozens of children. By the “numbers”, SC DOT would have to say there still is no reason to place a traffic light at the intersection.

Residents correctly argue that if Sweetwater Road and the Pine House Intersections on US 25 deserve a light, the same traffic is passing Bettis Academy Road intersection and they too pay taxes and deserve a safe entrance to the highway.

The very real fact in the matter is the intersection of Bettis Academy Road and US 25 has been verified as the “most dangerous” in the county. The death toll mounts. Collisions continue. And everyone, except Phillip Brooks and Kevin McLaughlin running blocker for the SC DOT, can see what is really going on.

Or can they?

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SC DOT) has already funded the extension of the four lane of US 25 from the present location in Edgefield County all the way to the Pine House intersection. The work is scheduled to begin in the next few years.

They believe that this road widening will solve all the problems at the intersection and there is no use placing a traffic light at the intersection when they can withstand the death toll until their project gets underway. They just look at numbers while Edgefield County Rescue, Fire, EMS, or Law Enforcement personnel get to remove the dead bodies and give waiting family members the bad news.

Maybe as a part of Mr. McLaughlin’s many studies he should volunteer as a First Responder for that intersection to get an introspective look at what those who live in the area already have.

Is one death too many? Two deaths? Maybe five deaths is the limit? Then there is that annoying time frame thing again. There have been far too many deaths at that intersection, far more than Sweetwater Road or the Pine House Intersections had combined over the years.

From this point forward, the responsibility lies with the South Carolina Department of Transportation. They have openly acknowledged the problem that State Representative Bill Clyburn called a “crisis”. It is a shame that too many deaths do not fit the “criteria”. Maybe when we have “way too many” deaths the SC DOT might look into a traffic light. Even with a four-lane highway in the area, the traffic signal is still needed.

We hope the fears of the residents recalled for SC DOT Officials, such as the school bus vs tractor-trailer, never come true. It would be a shame if it takes SC DOT sacrificing our children before they will act. Will the deaths of children make the intersection any more dangerous than it is right now? No. Just expose the ineptness of people we put in charge of things to use common sense in making determinations. Forget the numbers and guidelines. Guidelines are not written in stone. Only the names of the dead are written in stone.

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