Signs sought to protect deaf man on his walks Speeders pose peril, couple say

September 12, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Two strategically placed street signs would make life safer for one South Carroll family.

Jeff Smith and Clare Tolan are asking the county to post "Deaf Pedestrian Walking" signs at two intersections on Macbeth Way, near their home.

No such sign exists in the county standards, said Jay Nave, acting traffic control chief for Carroll County.

"The county conforms to the state [manual of] 'Uniform Traffic Control Devices' to make its signs, and that one is not available," said Mr. Nave.

Eugene Bailey, assistant supervisor of state Sign Operations, said, "Plenty of signs not in the manual can be made."

Ginny Edwards, who works with Ms. Tolan at Community Support Services for the Deaf in Randallstown, said signs alerting motorists to deaf pedestrians are posted throughout the surrounding neighborhood in Baltimore County.

Mr. Nave did find in the standards a sign designed to warn motorists about a deaf child living in the area. "Children would be in greater danger," he said.

Ms. Tolan, 36, who is hearing-impaired, worries that speeding drivers, unaware that her husband can't hear or speak, are placing him in danger.

Mr. Smith, his 1-year-old daughter and the family basset hound are a familiar sight as they stroll along Macbeth Way, a winding collector road that serves several hundred homeowners.

The couple, who moved to the neighborhood from Woodlawn six months ago, said few drivers adhere to the posted 25-mph speed limit.

Three times a day, Mr. Smith, 32, leads Bud on the same route -- a 15-minute brisk jaunt that makes a circle from his Stirrup Court home. As soon as he gets home from work about 5:30 p.m., he slows the pace and takes young Logan along for her daily stroller ride.

"Jeff calls it their special time together," said Ms. Tolan. "I don't go."

With one hand on a leash and the other on the stroller, Mr. Smith is off with his entourage. Many neighbors in the Eldersburg development wave as he pushes Logan's stroller and firmly tugs on the dog's leash.

Through his wife, Mr. Smith said he feels more secure with the sameness of the walk.

"He likes the road because it's convenient and near home," said Ms. Tolan.

But she says the danger from speeding cars outweighs the familiarity and convenience.

Mr. Smith must cross Macbeth Way twice to reach the only sidewalk on the east side of the road, before he ends his walk near the community playground behind his home court.

Mr. Smith crosses Macbeth Way as he exits Stirrup Court and crosses back at Pommel Drive. Both intersections are near wide bends in the road.

Mr. Smith cannot hear approaching vehicles, and road contours limit his sight distance, said Ms. Tolan.

"Cars drive too fast," said Ms. Tolan. "The drivers have no patience. They beep their horns and use obscene gestures and bad language. He has almost been hit three times."

Bud's training is limited to alerting the couple inside their home to such things as a ringing phone or doorbell, or a smoke alarm sounding. Outdoors, the dog is more interested in exercise and an occasional pat from a friendly passer-by. He has not been trained to warn Mr. Smith about approaching cars.

"Maybe a sign about 500 feet away from the crossings would alert motorists," said Ms. Tolan.

Mr. Nave suggested a crosswalk identifying the intersections as crossing areas. He said he planned to inspect the street this week.

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