Accident cleanup is a shared job


February 15, 2005|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WE'VE ALL gone by accident scenes. Crunched cars, scarred trees, glass and other debris littering the road.

Unfortunately, some of us live near sites where accidents frequently happen. Jill Balthis is one such person. "Who is responsible for cleaning up after accidents?" she asked.

According to JoAnn Maxfield, customer service representative for the Howard County Department of Public Works, the Police Department has arrangements with towing companies. After the tow truck loads up the damaged vehicle, the driver will sweep debris or glass to the side of the road and remove any large car parts.

State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck noted that the agency has a similar arrangement with towing companies. "Sometimes towing companies will help clean up in coordination with SHA," he said.

But Buck also said that all SHA emergency response trucks are equipped with brooms and absorbent material to soak up spilled fuel or blood, as are firetrucks. "SHA can take care of small amounts of spillage," he said, but "significant amounts of blood will be washed down by the Fire Department."

Large amounts of spilled fuel are usually handled by emergency response workers, who are trained and equipped to handle such spills.

But the reality of cleaning up an accident scene, Buck said, is that it is done by whoever has the capacity to handle it at the time. It depends on the "situation and capability and whether SHA even knows about it," he said. He noted that many accidents are so minor that they're not reported to anyone but the insurance companies involved, even though there may be debris, such as a broken taillight or headlight, left behind.

Balthis noted that accidents are frequent at the intersection of Centennial Lane, Route 108 and Beaverbrook Road. "Often the glass and car bits are left in the road," she said. "Is there someone we can call to get that cleaned up?"

Whom you call depends on where the accident occurs. On county-maintained roads and intersections (generally, streets with names, not route numbers), Maxfield recommended that you call the Howard County Department of Public Works, Bureau of Highways, 410-313-7450. "[They] will do cleanup of glass by request," she said.

But if the accident scene is on a numbered highway (Route 103 or Interstate 70, for example) or at an intersection at which one of the roads is a numbered highway, call the appropriate SHA maintenance facility. In Howard County, call SHA's Dayton maintenance facility, 410-531- 5533. If the debris is on a state-maintained road in Carroll County, call the Westminster maintenance facility, 410-848- 6565; or in Frederick County, call the Frederick facility, 301- 624-8251.

Favorite sayings

We all have our favorite phrases, and I'm no different. What makes writing this column fun week after week is getting to use my favorite printable car-related phrases. Last week, I trotted out one of my standards: "putting a crank in her crankshaft." Longtime readers will also recognize "tangle your axels" and "get his rotors in an uproar."

Jim Johnson felt he finally had to respond. "I can see how one might get a kink in their gas line or brake line but not in their carburetor," he said. "I'm thinking about how one gets a crank in their crankshaft."

Pet peeves ... continued

Dennis Johnson, a native of Maryland transplanted to Georgia, keeps in touch with his hometown of Ellicott City in part by looking up the Traffic Talk column on the Internet.

"I know most of the bad intersections and jammed highways in Howard County, so it makes me feel a certain nostalgia for them when you write about them," he said. "My pet peeves here are very much like [yours]."

First on his list is "dogs riding unrestrained in the beds of pickup trucks. Unfortunately, it doesn't do to challenge the owners of said dogs and `p'ups,' since they usually have gun racks. And guns. And ammo," he said.

But wait - there's more! "Dogs driving pickup trucks. Not as rare as you might think," he wrote.

Cars in Georgia apparently do not include turn signal indicators as standard equipment, Johnson reports. "That, at any rate, is the only way I can explain why no one ever uses them," he said.

One of the pet peeves I noted in last week's column was revealed in an anti-speeding rant by Jon Merryman. Key speeding offenders are parents, who should be remembering that they are role models for the next generation of drivers, he pointed out. Several of you responded directly to Mr. Merryman.

"Here, here to Jon Merryman! He is absolutely, positively, 100% correct!!" wrote Jeff Gardner.

Jim Johnson also agrees with Merryman. "When approaching a left-lane exit in a 55-mph zone, one should not have to drive 65 or over to keep up with traffic. Speeders have to give nonspeeders some slack."

Here, here!

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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