Vol. 8, No. 12
March 23-29, 2000
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Death on Chesapeake Country Roads

There was tragic symbolism in the death last weekend of Daniel “Keith” Rogers, 18, of Shady Side. He died when he crashed his 2000 Ford Mustang, a high school graduation gift, on treacherous Shady Side Road.

His mother later observed the need for caution, noting “crosses up and down this road in Shady Side.”

Earlier in this new century, our friend Betty Sherwood perished when struck by a van crossing a suburban Severna Park road. Since her death, a much-needed pedestrian crosswalk has been painted at the intersection where she died. But to walk across Benfield Road in the new crosswalk, Betty’s husband had to point out the new caution sign to heedless motorists.

But more than caution and crosswalks are called for. In 2000, the year of their deaths and so many others in similarly tragic ways, we must commit ourselves to thinking not just about roads but about devising a sustainable system of transporting ourselves in the new millennium.

In community planning sessions and in the pages of newspapers, we talk about sustainable living: How we can tread easier on this earth so that there’s something left for our children and grandchildren?

But we don’t devote enough brainpower to our roads or to a sustainable transportation system.

Along Chesapeake Bay, we carry out our lives at 50 or 60 miles per hour on roads built when life moved at 20 or 30 miles per hour. Narrow Shady Side Road, with no shoulders or sidewalks and its telephone poles a few feet from the pavement, was dangerous when used primarily by watermen and summer visitors. Now, commuters speed along this road to and from faraway everyday jobs.

Throughout Chesapeake Country, many other roads present just as striking a contrast. To save lives, we’re going to have to bridge that gap.

First of all, as the citizen planners on our Small Area Planning Committees finish their work, they must give their communities sustainable proposals for how we get from Point A to Points B, C and D in our lives. When they set priorities in how and where we grow, they must recognize that density compounds the problem.

Next, in this time of prosperity, we must summon the political will to spend the money to improve our roads. That doesn’t mean straightening meandering roads or whacking down trees or damaging the Southern Maryland character that is so important to our lives. It does mean providing shoulders, moving utility polls and creating pedestrian ways and bike paths so we don’t need to fire up our engines each time we need a half-gallon of milk.

It also means more education of young drivers, better enforcement of roadway laws and, as we’ve preached in this space before, more acceptance of personal responsibility.

Clearly, there are more questions than answers. We invite both from our readers. Only when each of us contributes to a shared sustainable future will we need fewer memorials alongside our roads.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly