Drivers cautioned to slow down and stay alert
QUEEN ANNE — In the study period 2014 through 2016, there were 180 crashes on the entire section of state Route 404 between U.S. Route 50 and the Town of Denton, according to statistics from the State Highway Administration. Of those 180 crashes, six were fatal and 68 required medical attention.
Although statistics have not yet been calculated for the beginning of 2017, emergency responders agree the severity of accidents on Route 404 has been less since construction began to continue widening Route 404, likely due to the reduced speed limit and increased awareness of drivers.
Many travelers and commuters are looking forward to the completion of a dual highway along Route 404 to decrease their travel time, but it has never been about solely that, said Robert Rager, district community liaison for the SHA. The goal has always been to increase safety, he said. And it is important for drivers to continue to use caution and obey the signs posted along the work zones.
Because of the number of accidents historically on Route 404 and the need for local emergency services to use the state highway to respond to calls, SHA has been working closely with departments in Caroline, Talbot, and Queen Anne’s counties, since the beginning of the construction.
QAHVFC initially asked to meet with the Route 404 project team so we could work though some design concerns (e.g., turning radius at J-turns), said Rager. With most of the project design now done we continue meeting regularly for open discussion of the project and to ensure we quickly address any public safety concerns. “Radio communication among flaggers and emergency services personnel has been great,” Rager said, “Really this is a fantastic group of public safety professionals to work with.”
“It has been a big plus for all of the responders to be able to meet with the SHA folks, contractors, and other responders so as to be proactive for potential problems rather than being reactive. All the parties have really worked well and are still doing so,” said David Chaires, Queen Anne Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Department member.
However, the one problem noted consistently by the SHA and Maryland State Police, has been speeding through the work-zone and inattentive driving. Although MSP was unable to confirm exact numbers, an SHA worker reported on one particular morning just prior to the July 4 holiday, one of the troopers assigned to help assist with traffic control and safety had to caution or cite more than 30 drivers.
The speed limit through the work zones is 45 mph and is enforceable 24 hours a day, said Rager. There is also no passing along the double yellow lines or on the shoulder, and stopping at any point along the shoulder in the work zone is strongly discouraged for safety reasons, he said.
The additional police presence — requested by SHA and paid for through the construction project allowance — was sought to help SHA workers and contractors with visibility. It is not uncommon for drivers to become blind to the safety warnings and signs, after a period of time, explains Rager.
According to a statement released by the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) with the largest construction season in history underway — they are urging drivers to stay alert, slow down and travel carefully in roadway work zones. Work zone crashes continue to occur along Maryland roadways, with three serious crashes occurring in one night — June 29 — elsewhere in Maryland, says MDOT SHA.
“The people who work on roadways are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers, and they deserve to get home to their families. Their safety is in your hands,” said MDOT SHA Administrator Gregory Slater. “We should also remember that in four out of five work-zone related crashes, it is a driver or vehicle passenger who is injured or killed, so drivers need to stay vigilant in work zones for their safety as well.”
On average, more than 700 people nationwide lose their lives annually in work zone crashes. Six people lost their lives in Maryland work zone crashes in 2016. Nationally, 130 roadway workers were killed in the line of duty in 2015, the second highest amount in a decade.
Preparing yourself to be patient while the flagging operations take place and adding extra travel time is likely the best solution if you must utilize MD 404, however SHA is encouraging drivers to seek alternate routes, said Rager.
If your goal is to save a few minutes of travel time off your trip traveling at night may be your best option for now. Otherwise anticipate delays, as presently two to three flagging operations are happening along the Route 404 corridor. And keep in mind that this project does have a very near end in sight, with completion dates set for November, said Rager.
“As you can clearly see, our project will significantly improve safety and help break congestion,” said Charlie Gischlar, SHA Office of Communications.
Traffic slows on eastbound MD 404 for a flagging operation.
Maryland State Police, background, offer support to a flagger on westbound MD 404.