CLARKSBURG -- If you have
driven U.S. 50 through Harrison County for long, chances are
you have seen an accident.
If you are an emergency
responder, chances are you have touched one or more of the
Improving the safety
record of the Route 50 corridor is the No. 1 issue for
Harrison County transportation, according to URS Corp. of
Omaha, Neb. That company just completed a 25-year county plan
for the state Division of Highways.
Recent accidents -- some
of them fatal -- have particularly brought some of the
highway's most problematic, high-speed intersections to the
They are West Virginia 98
(Davisson Run) and West Virginia 23 (Salem International
According to Carlin
Kendrick of the DOH's traffic engineering division in
Charleston, there were 42 accidents at the Route 98
intersection from January 1995 to Sept. 30, 2001 about those
two intersections. There were 16 accidents at the Route 23
intersection during the same time period.
In the Route 98 accidents,
two people were killed and 41 were injured. At Route 23, there
were no deaths and 21 injured.
Mike Gallo, chief of the
Reynoldsville Volunteer Fire Department, has personally
touched 12 people who died in accidents at the Route 98
"In six days in early
1994, there were five wrecks that involved six entrapments,
one death, three (taken by helicopter) and resulted in a $1/2
million in medical and property damage," said Gallo.
Why are accidents
While the intersections'
designs are drawing close scrutiny in recent days, the URS
study concluded many accidents there and elsewhere in the
highway's western portion are related to driver error. The
study states approximately 40 percent of all accidents between
Clarksburg and Doddridge County were associated with "loss of
That would include running
off the road; running off the road and hitting an object;
drifting into another lane and hitting a vehicle going the
same direction; and running off the road, traveling through
the median and hitting a vehicle traveling in the opposite
West Virginia State Police
Sgt. Wade Bramer of the Bridgeport Detachment said driver
distractions such as cellular telephones, boisterous children
or a wandering mind contribute to those types of
"People need to realize
that when they're driving a car they need to make that their
main focus," Bramer said.
He said concentration is
particularly important at intersections, especially the most
"My opinion would be to
not let anyone go directly across all four lanes," he said.
"It's dangerous enough to cross two lanes, but crossing four
lanes is very dangerous."
Another 35 percent of
western Route 50 accidents were related to intersection use,
especially at routes 98 and 23.
Bramer believes those
accidents are often related to drivers inaccurately judging
the speed of oncoming vehicles. There is a 65 mph speed limit
around both of those intersections.
"As a state, we're
probably a little behind in terms of driver education," said
Marvin Murphy, District IV engineer for DOH. "People need to
realize that there is a center area to stop and check their
position before continuing."
An additional 11 percent
of the accidents were of a type that could be categorized as
either loss of control or associated with an
A final 14 percent were
categorized as "other," which includes unclassified accidents
and striking animals.
One factor URS found
common to almost all the accidents was excessive
In addition to the
transportation plan, Murphy said the recent accidents have
drawn DOH's interest. He has requested the traffic engineering
division to conduct a study. He is particularly interested in
the Route 23 intersection.
"I think it's time to do a
full study," Murphy said.
Staff writer Darlene
Taylor can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Jim Fisher can be
reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at