The Ellicott City intersection where Andrea Barlow suffered fatal injuries last month had such a high volume of traffic that "it was almost like a train was coming in every morning," said C. Edward Walter, the county's chief traffic engineer.
As a result, Walter has imposed a restriction on the traffic flow around the intersection, across from Centennial High School at Centennial Lane and Waterford Drive.
Between the hours of 7 and 8 a.m. -- the peak arrival time for Centennial students -- only right-hand turns are allowed from WaterfordDrive, Walter said.
Barlow, who died March 3, had been stopped ata stop sign on Waterford and attempted to cross the intersection to the school parking lot when her car was struck broadside by a truck.
Traffic around the school is hectic when students arrive and depart. Barlow was a junior at the high school; three of her classmates also were injured in the crash.
Walter, who studied the intersectionafter being contacted by concerned Centennial PTSA members, said thelocation created "a high level of frustration" for drivers, who sometimes were forced to wait as long as five minutes to make a left-handturn from Waterford Drive.
"We felt it was important to remove some of the frustration from that intersection," Walter said."There were some obvious problems going on."
Jan Rollins, a Centennial PTSAmember, said the new traffic restriction seemed like a good plan to try and curb accidents at the intersection, which had been a problem spot in recent years.
"We felt that something needed to be done. There's always a lot of congestion there, and cars are always shootingacross the intersection," Rollins said.
However, as far as hazardous intersections are measured, the Centennial location is far from the top of the list. Barlow's accident was the ninth in the last six years at the county intersection, Walter said.
By comparison, the county's most dangerous location is a state intersection at Center Drive and U.S. 40, Walter said. The site recorded 36 accidents in 1988, the earliest year for which figures are available.
Another state intersection, U.S. 29 and Owen Brown Road, was the site of 27 accidents in that year.
George Miller, a traffic engineer with the State Highway Administration, said those two locations have been under intensive study and improvements such as lane widening and new traffic signals are being implemented.
The accident figures at the intersections are higher than statewide averages, he said.
The situation at U.S. 29 and Owen Brown Road will be eased by the new Broken Land Parkway overpass under construction, Miller said.
Most accidents at the two busiest Howard County intersections have been rear-end collisions, Miller said.
Howard County accident rates "are nothing that I would call extraordinary," said Miller, who monitors accident sites in Frederick, Carroll and Howard counties.
The highway administration is studying approximately 30 to 40 problem locations within those three counties, he said.
County traffic officials say that many accidents around county high schools often occur as a result of inexperienced young drivers.
The Barlow accident has prompted county PTA officials to lobby for driver-education programs in the schools.