Traffic woes slow holiday travelers

July 06, 1997


Staff Writer

This July Fourth holiday weekend traffic brought many drivers to a virtual standstill and caused a few more accidents than usual, according to Tri-State Area police.

The most serious incident occurred about 2 p.m. Sunday in Smithsburg when a bicyclist was struck by a car, Maryland State Police reported. Sanford Smith, 39, of Waynesboro, Pa., was taken by helicopter to Washington County Hospital Trauma Center with a seriously injured leg, reports said.

Trooper David A. Harper said George Alfred Wennerberg, 50, of Hagerstown, was temporarily distracted when the 1986 Dodge Omni he was driving crossed the solid white line on the shoulder of Route 64 and hit bicyclist Smith about 500 feet west of Ingram Drive.


Police reports said the force of the collision knocked Smith into the air. A sock and his left tennis shoe landed on the side of the road next to his mangled 24-speed bicycle. Smith was wearing reflective clothing and a bicycle helmet, the reports said.

Smith was still in the hospital's emergency room Sunday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The accident is under investigation.

As a result of the extra holiday traffic this weekend, West Virginia State Police said they received reports of 12 accidents since Thursday, about three more than they log for normal weekends, Sgt. Joe Adams said.

In addition, West Virginia police have made seven arrests for driving under the influence and have given 45 speeding citations, 110 speeding warnings, 10 seat belt citations and 50 seat belt warnings since Thursday, Adams said.

"The numbers are high," he said. "We had a lot of guys out for the weekend."

The traffic, he said, peaked Sunday at about 1 p.m. on Route 9 and Interstate 81 and was heavier in the Martinsburg area than in past Independence Day weekends.

"This area is just growing. It's just going to get heavier each year," Adams said.

Although Thursday afternoon brought "really heavy" traffic to the Chambersburg, Pa., area, Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. John Ford has seen it worse in years past, he said.

Cars flooded both north and southbound lanes of I-81 this weekend, an abnormal rate of travelers for Chambersburg, said Ford, a patrol supervisor.

"It makes life interesting," he said with a laugh.

But not for drivers. A mile-long backlog of cars sitting bumper-to-bumper between Turnpike 76 and the intersection of Route 30 and I-70 forced six Pennsylvania state police officers to direct traffic Sunday afternoon, said Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Les Lepako.

"I understand it's a mess down there right now," he said Sunday. "At least (traffic) was moving on Thursday."

Travelers journeying eastbound on I-70 were more fortunate - they at least were reduced to a crawl, said Maryland State Police Trooper M.W. Shank.

"Right now it's pretty ugly," said Shank Sunday evening. He added that intersections at all the major interstates normally are this congested each July Fourth.

Other than the car-bicycle accident Sunday, Maryland police have not reported any additional major accidents since Thursday, Shank said.

"Everyone is driving the very best they can," he explained.

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