Residents seek changes on deadly curve

Accidents common on Route 468 section near Shady Side

April 21, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Over in Shady Side, folks call the quarter-mile stretch on Route 468 between Deep Cove Road and Dent Road "Dead Man's Curve."

The winding, narrow, shoulderless road has been the site of many accidents, some fatal and many serious. As proof -- and a reminder -- at least eight crosses have been placed along the road as memorials to those who have died there.

After years of vehicles driving off the road and slamming into poles and trees, residents of this small South County community are calling for action. The state has responded by promising to look at short-term and long-term improvements.

"We've had so many people die on this road," said Lola Scott, who has lived on Route 468 since 1954. "These people are now getting upset."

At a community meeting Wednesday, residents discussed the dangers of the road with elected state officials, police officers and representatives of the State Highway Administration. They also created a committee to work with the state to improve the road.

After hearing relatives and friends of those who have died in accidents talk about the dangers of the road, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat, vowed to work with the local delegation and the county to improve the road.

"We'll move as fast as we can on this," Miller told the crowd of 150. "There's not a road like this in Prince George's County, and I know those roads like the back of my hand."

Miller, who was joined by state Del. C. Richard D'Amato, said he had not been aware of the dangerous section of Route 468, also known as Shady Side Road. "I promise you some very positive results," he added.

Paul D. Armstrong, a district engineer for the State Highway Administration, said the department plans a six-month study of ways to improve the road. In the meantime, Armstrong said, he will look into cutting down some trees along the edge of the road, reducing the speed limit, improving lighting and adding rumble strips.

Capt. Thomas A. Suit, southern district commander for the county police department, said that in 1999, 115 accidents occurred on Route 486, which stretches from Route 214 to Snug Harbor Road. Two were fatal. Despite a concentrated enforcement effort, the total was an increase of 17 from the previous year.

Suit pledged the department's continuing efforts regarding the road. He warned that excessive speed and alcohol consumption are often factors.

Scott said she and her husband, Arnett, see at least five to eight accidents each year. They've found cars in their yard first thing in the morning, been awakened by the screeching of tires and opened up their living room to the injured until help arrived.

"I've called 911 so many times," Scott said. "Now, when I call, they know exactly who it is."

The most recent traffic fatality at "Dead Man's Curve" happened March 18 in front of their home. Lola was in bed and Arnett was in another room.

Early that morning, Keith Rogers of Shady Side was driving west on Route 468 when he lost control of his new Ford Mustang, slid along a ditch and slammed into a telephone pole and large tree. The 18-year-old was pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

A white cross with "Keith" written across it now sits at the site.

"He was a real young guy," Scott said. "Arnett sees his friends come by here everyday and touch the cross."

Keith's mother, Lauri, spoke at the meeting Wednesday night and expressed her concern about the condition of the road. Then Crystal Greenwell talked about her husband, who is in the hospital after hitting the same tree the day after Keith's accident. Sylvia Pindell talked about her son who died on the road Thanksgiving 1998.

Rogers said she has sent petitions to local and state officials asking for road improvements and helped organized the meeting.

"Of course, none of this will bring my son back, but I'm hoping to prevent another accident," she said.

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