DOT: No caution light for Wing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Family members of the girls killed in a June 14 accident discuss the meeting’s outcome.

Wing residents were outraged Tuesday when state transportation officials said there’d be no caution light installed at the intersection of Ala. Hwy. 137 and Covington County Rd. 4.

Approximately 75 residents attended a public meeting at the Wing Volunteer Fire Department to hear Tony Harris, Alabama Department of Transportation’s bureau chief of media and community relations, present the state’s traffic study findings following the June 14 fatal accident that claimed the lives of three Baker, Fla., girls.

Harris said since 2004, there have been four traffic accidents at the intersection.

“Statistically, that road carries approximately 2,400 vehicles per day,” Harris said. “To my surprise, we found there is a far lower history of crashes at the intersection than we thought. It equates to 1 crash every 30 months versus 1 in 15 months that we might expect at other intersections like it, based on traffic volume and roadway characteristics.”

Harris said the state made the following recommendations:

* recommended for the county commission to clean the sides of the road from the intersection beyond the stop ahead signs.

* install a channelized island with reflective paint and markers at the eastbound approach to Ala. Hwy. 137.

* move the stop sign to more of a straight line and to install a yield sign for those making a right turn from County Road 4.

“One of the biggest things recommended and that the county plans to start on (today) is the installation of rumble strips across County Road 4 from each direction,” Harris said. “Those will be raised painted strips, about 700 to 1,000 feet back from the stop sign.

“It gives a visual and physical indication there is a stop sign ahead,” he said. “It‘s a good complement to the signs that are already in place.”

Local residents were visibly upset and had multiple questions about why a caution light could not be installed.

Dewey Madden, the grandfather of the three girls killed in the accident, attended the meeting.

“Why not a dangerous intersection sign?” he asked. “You can’t put a price on human life, but we need something more than what you’re talking about.”

Terry Spicer said, “It’s like this community doesn’t matter. But when do the voices of people who experience it daily matter? When will you listen to us? It cost the lives of three little children who won’t get to live lives. Why? Let’s don’t let that happen again.”

Harris said while he appreciated the community’s input, a caution light “is not the answer.”

“A caution light, it’s a distraction (in some cases),” Harris said. “If you are on free flowing part of road that intersects with a lower volume road, there is a confusion factor, especially if you’re not familiar with the road.

“You take your eye off the vehicle in front of you and look at the light. That split second can cause more accidents than the light is supposed to prevent,” he said.

Both Sheriff Dennis Meeks and Commissioner Harold Elmore attended the meeting.

“This is a starting point,” Meeks said. “You may not be completely happy, but it’s a starting point.”

After the meeting, Celia Higdon, mother of the three girls, said she was pleased to see the community support.

“I feel like this (community) really got their attention,” Higdon said. “These people know what they want, and I think they’ll fight hard to get it.”

Many residents said they plan to contact their legislators to see if additional measures can be accomplished.