Fatal Accident Raises Concern About Route 113

BERLIN – A Berlin man was struck and killed by a car Saturday evening while trying to cross Rt. 113, prompting calls from the community for a lower speed limit on the Berlin section of highway.

Harry Eckman, 48, tried to cross the busy highway at roughly 7 p.m. Saturday evening, choosing to cross near Franklin Ave. but away from the intersection in a badly lit area, while wearing dark clothes, according to the Berlin Police Department. A 1998 Chrysler then struck him.

 Responding police gave Eckman CPR on the shoulder of the road before the Berlin Fire Department transported him to Atlantic General Hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Eckman had been drinking before the accident, but police could not say how intoxicated he was at the time of his death.

“The pedestrian was at fault,” said Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing. “We know the individual was drinking, but we’re waiting back on the medical examiner’s office.”         

The driver of the Chrysler, an 18-year-old woman from Ocean Pines, will not be charged with any wrongdoing. Police would not identify her. Police say that speed did not appear to be a factor in the collision.

“Speed had nothing to do with the last four fatal accidents we had,” said Downing. “It had nothing to do with [this] accident whatsoever.”

Speaking Monday night, before the accident details were released, one member of the community asked for a change in the speed limit on the section of Route 113 that runs through Berlin.

“It should be a little slower and save lives of the residents of Berlin,” said a Berlin resident, who did not identify himself, at the town council meeting. He said his mother had been killed at the Routes 346 and 113 intersection several years ago.

The resident suggested that a slower speed limit would save lives, and if strictly enforced, would generate income for Berlin.

“I think it’s perfectly appropriate for us to request, and tell them why, in a formal letter,” said Berlin Town Council Vice President Gee Williams, a former public affairs officer for the local SHA region. “It doesn’t hurt for them to take a look from time to time.”

Berlin Mayor Tom Cardinale said he would draft the letter and give it to the council to look over before sending it. A similar letter was sent to SHA in 2002 requesting a slower speed limit on that stretch of highway, Downing said, but no changes were made.

“It’s never been reduced. It’s always been 50 mph,” said Downing.

Some changes can be effective in preventing pedestrian-vehicle collisions. Accidents on Route 113 tend to take place at traffic lights, Downing said. Changes made at the once dangerous Assateague Rd. and Route 113 intersection have reduced accidents greatly, and no fatalities have been recorded since the improvements were made.

“Serious personal injury accidents were reduced because of the light patterns at Assateague Rd. and 113. We saw a noticeable drop,” Downing said, referring to the fact north and south traffic must now stop to make a left turn from the road.

Motorists must watch out for pedestrians on Route 113 through Berlin.

“We have problems with pedestrians on 113 because of how it’s lit,” Downing said. “All the pedestrians [that] have been on the travel portion of the road. Pedestrians need to cross at intersections. They’re better lit. … This is not a street. It’s a highway. A highway is a very dangerous place for people or bicycles to be. Go ahead to the light, to the intersection and cross. You need to take your time.”