Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tragic death of a teenager

Sydney Aichs, a 16-year-old local high school student, died at the scene early on Friday, May 9 when a tractor-trailer broadsided her car as she made a left turn onto US Route 29 on a green light from the road leading out of her subdivision. She was on her way to school. There had been a heavy rain the night before, and the roads were still damp. As you can
see from the photos above, the northbound lanes of the highway head down a steep hill and then upward at the traffic light for the "T" intersection on the right. The speed limit on US 29 is 55 mph. As trucks come barreling down the hill, it is difficult for them to stop when the light turns red (or their drivers choose not to stop because of the amount of energy needed to get going again on the steep upgrade at the light). The latter seems to be the case here, as police said their investigation will be reviewed by the commonwealth’s attorney to determine if the truck driver should be charged.

This intersection, constructed about 12-13 years ago, was poorly designed. As one commenter noted on a local website, "This is so awful. Please, let’s find a way to make the state fix this intersection." Another said, "The intersection at FL [Forest Lakes] South should have never been approved until either VDOT or the developers did something about leveling out the road on either side of it. Any reasonable person looking at the traffic history there since would surely agree that not only was it a poor decision, but the state (VDOT) has been negligent by not addressing this problem area sooner. Now we’ve lost a life as a result. How much longer?"

Indeed. This is the first death I'm aware of here, but crashes at this intersection or at the the northbound or southbound approaches to it seem to be an almost daily occurrence. On the following Monday afternoon, I had to detour around the location because of stopped traffic and flashing lights from police cars in the distance.

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