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New light, two crashes at busy intersection

April 24, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Two accidents occurred at a newly installed traffic light at the intersection of Marlow Road and U.S. 340 Wednesday afternoon when motorists in the collisions said they could not see the color of the lights on the signal, police said.

In both accidents, which were rear-end collisions, the inability of motorists to determine the color of the light was a factor, said Jefferson County Sheriff's Department officials.

One crash occurred at about 1 p.m. and the second happened about 2 p.m., Sgt. Sam Harmon said.

In the second crash, a motorist traveling north on U.S. 340 at Marlow Road told police he could not tell what color the traffic light was because the wind was blowing it around, Harmon said.

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The driver finally determined the light was red and was able to get his car stopped before he crossed through the intersection, Harmon said.

Another motorist following the first car could not see what color the light was either, Harmon said.

The second motorist could not stop in time and struck the first car, Harmon said.

Both accidents resulted in minor injuries, Harmon said.

The Division of Highways installed traffic lights at the intersection because of the difficulty motorists have had in turning onto the highway. In the northbound lane, the highway intersects with Marlow Road and in the southbound lane, it intersects with Country Club Road.

Instead of being installed on cables, Harmon said he believes the new lights should have been installed on poles so they cannot move in the wind.

A state Division of Highways official said hanging lights on cables should not affect their performance.

The lights are aligned so they can be seen clearly by oncoming motorists, said Bill Shanklin, area engineer for the Division of Highways.

The lights can be moved by the wind, but they will remain visible, Shanklin said.

Shanklin said it is possible the lights fell out of alignment and added he will have them checked.

Other traffic lights at nearby intersections on the highway are installed on cables, including the lights by the Charles Town Wal-Mart, Shanklin said.

"They've been up for years," Shanklin said.

The new lights have two heads on them, Shanklin said. That way, if one head burns out or the signal shifts in the wind, oncoming motorists will see the second head, Shanklin said.

Shanklin said before the new lights were activated last Thursday, the lights were put on a flashing yellow signal for about a week to call motorists' attention to the new devices. Also, signs were erected on U.S. 340 warning motorists about the new lights, Shanklin said.

Despite the efforts, Shanklin said he was at the intersection Tuesday and a car drove through a red light. There also were skid marks in the road, Shanklin said.

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