Can Sherwoods Death Save a Life?
Were it not for morning traffic, Betty Sherwood would be alive.
Its heart-wracking to pull from the million-thread pattern of daily life the one thread that made all the difference in the world.
The ifs stack up like a Tower of Babel. If it hadnt snowed Jan. 24. If the snow hadnt lingered. If the sun hadnt shone.
But of one fact, Jack Sherwood is certain. Of all the factors that contributed to his wifes death during Severna Parks morning rush hour on Jan. 28, only one can be changed. Thats is the impassability of Benfield Road at Kensington Avenue during morning rush hour.
The main east-west artery of Severna Park, Benfield Road, used to be a two-lane country road. Its now three lanes one serves as a passing lane but morning traffic is still a clog. Between the light at Jumpers Hole Road, a quarter mile to the west, and Kensington Avenue, dozens and dozens of westerly traveling cars, Sherwood says, can be backed up at that time of the morning.
Rather than be blocked in as Kensington was plowed, Betty left her car in an already plowed lot a short distance from her home. To reach her car that fatal morning, she had to thread her way across Benfield Road.
Its a nightmare weve been living with for years. We have one exit and entry for a community of hundreds of homes, said Sherwood.
Retracing his wifes last steps the day after her death, Sherwood imagined her negotiating that traffic, blinded by the morning sun, intensified into brilliance by windshields and snow. (The driver of the van that struck Betty Sherwood also claimed sun-blindness.)
To improve that intersection, Sherwood resolved to campaign for a blinking light and crosswalk. He began his campaign hours after Bettys death with a weekend call to County Executive Janet Owens.
The next week, Owens met with the countys director of public works, John Brusnighan. Both have committed to a traffic engineering study of the Benfield Road-Kensington Avenue intersection.
The study is waiting for the snow to melt and police investigation to be complete. When it happens, it will follow nationally accepted traffic control standards, including volume and conditions.
The typical process is a weighing of safety factors, access factors and efficiency, explained James Schroll, the countys chief traffic engineer.
Whatever happens wont be a perfect solution. Engineers know, for example, that a red-green-orange signal would likely increase rear-end accidents at the same time it decreased right-angle accidents of the sort that took Betty Sherwoods life. Flashing lights, they say, dont seem to slow drivers down. But, Schroll says, we continue to try and try to make [measures] more effective.
We wish that Bettys death would bring not only Benfield Road but all Chesapeake Country better traffic markers and manners. We know engineering wont bring her back or solve all of our regions traffic problems. But like Jack Sherwood and Schroll, we believe it can make a difference. Well be following the studys progress.
Meanwhile, at a personal level, were driving and walking with renewed caution and we want you to do the same.