A fatal car accident Wednesday on one of Columbia's most notorious curves has renewed concerns of local residents and county officials, who say that motorists have been recklessly disobeying the turn's 25-mph speed limit.
Residents along the 9700 block of Old Annapolis Road are hoping the curve -- which has been the site of 16 reported accidents from 1987 through 1990 -- can be given a safety upgrade, but county officials argue that little can be done.
"As long as people think they're invincible and can go speeding around a very dangerous curve, we're going to have accidents," said C.Edward Walter, the county's chief traffic engineer.
"We've got a safe speed limit posted."
Sixteen car accidents on a single curve is nevertheless "highly unusual," Walter said, and the county plans to resurface the road later this year in an effort to provide better traction.
But Dorsey's Search village residents such as Frances Mason, whose home is alongside the curve, want more action taken.
"It's a killing curve right now. If you step on the gas just a little bit, you're going to fly off the road," said Mason, who said she has lost numerous mailboxes when drivers plowed through them at the end of her driveway.
Mason and other residents have suggested that guardrails or a steeper embankment be erected along the curve.
"Most of the accidents don't even get reported," Mason said.
"I see them all the time. I look out my window, and there'll be a car out in the field spinning around."
County police say high speed was the cause of Wednesday's accident, in which a northbound Nissan 280-ZX sports car crossed the center line shortly after 7:15 a.m. and crashed into a Honda automobile.
Killed was Christopher Hope, 22, of the 9000 block of Wetbanks Court in Columbia. Hope was riding in the hatchback section of the Nissan.
The driver of the car, David Walker, 18, of the 4300 block of Wild Filly Court in Ellicott City, was in serious but stable condition Friday at the Shock Trauma Center at University ofMaryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
Another passenger in Walker's car, Jeffrey Bradshaw, and the driver of the Honda, Richard Cohen,of the 3700 block of Garand Road in Ellicott City, were in stable condition at Shock Trauma.
County traffic engineers have driven the road numerous times and last year placed a 25-mph speed limit on the curve, located just north of Oak Hill Drive, Walter said.
The restof Old Annapolis Road is marked with a 30-mph limit.
In 1990 alone, there were seven reported accidents on the curve, including two head-on collisions, Walter said.
Although the fatal accident was thefirst on the road, "that particular curve has always been a very badone for drivers. We've been out there quite a few times," said county police spokesman Michael Sherman.
Irene Iannuzzi, who lives lessthan a mile from the curve, said she has heard loud booms in the middle of the night, when drivers have crashed into the large tree alongthe curve.
"It's a terrifying sound," Iannuzzi said. "When you have that dangerous of a condition on a highway, it's got to be changed."