SNOW HILL — A fatal accident at the intersection of Routes 113 and 12 near Snow Hill last weekend renewed the ongoing and often contentious debate about the need for improvements at the notoriously dangerous crossroads.
Shortly before 3 p.m. last Friday, Maryland State Police troopers responded to a reported fatal collision at the intersection near Snow Hill. The investigation revealed a 2005 Chevy flatbed truck belonging to Lowes and operated by Gerald Dean Smith, 42, of Delmar, Md., was traveling on Route 12. While attempting to cross the northbound lanes of Route 113, the truck was struck by a 2002 Ford Explorer driven by Iva Jane Justice, 65, of Snow Hill.
Justice was pronounced dead at the scene. Smith was transported to PRMC in Salisbury for treatment of injuries not considered to be life-threatening. Route 113 at Route 12 was closed for about six hours while the investigation continued. The Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office responded and charges are possible pending the outcome of the final investigation although alcohol or drugs do not appear to be a contributing factor in the collision, according to a State Police release.
Since the intersection reopened in 2006 after a major reconstruction project by the State Highway Administration (SHA), there have been 59 accidents reported at the crossroads including multiple fatal collisions. County officials have implored the SHA for a major reconstruction or at least a traffic signal in the interim.
SHA crews have installed several “look again” signs warning motorists to check again before attempting to cross and have installed other calming devices including rumble strips and flashing yellow caution signals.
County Commissioner Virgil Shockley, who represents the Snow Hill area and who has been a passionate advocate for change at the intersection, said yesterday the latest fatal accident should represent a tipping point for change.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results,” he said. “There have been 59 accidents at that intersection since they changed it in 2006, and I’ve personally witnessed five of them. I really don’t know how much more evidence they need to realize the changes they’ve made there aren’t working.”
During a meeting with the County Commissioners in October, SHA officials acknowledged changes are needed, but said a traffic study determined a signal was not warranted. Instead, officials promised to look into installing J-turns at the intersection if the funding for the estimated $1.2 million project is available in the next budget cycle.
“Installing J-turns is essentially admitting the intersection was designed wrong in the first place,” said Shockley. “What we really need there is an overpass, but in the meantime, there is no good reason why they can’t install a traffic signal there. They keep telling us that hopefully the money will be there for J-turns, but the accidents continue. We’re averaging about one a month out there and most of them are serious and even fatal.”
Shockley said he will bring the issue up again at the commissioners’ next meeting on Tuesday, but there is little else to be said or done from a county standpoint. He said SHA officials have promised to revisit the issue likely in January or February when budget issues become clearer.
“It’s not our road, it’s the state’s road,” he said. “If it was a county road, we would have had this fixed already. Meanwhile, they continue to do nothing while the accidents continue and lives are ruined. It just doesn’t make any sense.”