When a man, woman, animal, drug, or vehicle becomes dangerous, authorities often do something to help ensure citizen safety. So what is done when an intersection becomes dangerous? According to Londonderry residents, not enough.
The Londonderry intersection of Route 102, Young Road, and Old Nashua Road has seen automobile accidents ranging from nearly harmless fender-benders to fatalities. For years, Londonderry residents have been wanting change, but no change has come.
Winnie Pitts, who lives on Young Road, sees the danger at the intersection every day.
"It could happen to anyone, you misjudge it," she said. "The traffic just whizzes down there. They see the 55 (mph sign) and they just step on it!"
Lt. Robert Michaud of the Londonderry Police Department agrees, adding that accidents are most often attributed to speed along with growing congestion in the area.
"The faster you go, the worse the crash," he said.
Along with speed, and although it is a relatively open and uncomplicated intersection, the angles of the roads and driver distraction also come into play, explained Londonderry Fire Chief Kevin MacCaffrie.
Tom Estey of Harold Estey Lumber, whose business faces the intersection, doesn't care what is causing the accidents, just what should be done.
"They know they need a set of lights there, so why waste time and money on a study? Just put the set of lights in," said Estey. "Maybe when another person gets killed, they'll say, 'you know what? We need a set of lights there.'"
Unfortunately, the process isn't that simple, according to Michaud, who is also the head of the Traffic Accident Reconstruction Team. A node (a numbered marking) is assigned to all New Hampshire intersections and roadways, and whenever there is an accident, the node at which it occurred is recorded. When deciding which intersections need to be reworked, the state looks at a nodal map and decisions are made based on facts and statistics, Michaud explained
In layman's terms, explained MacCaffrie, "It's on the list of frequented accident sites. It's not at the top, but it's certainly on the list."
So far this calendar year there have only been three accidents at this particular node, according to Michaud. There was one in February, one in May, and one in early July, which was the worst of the three.
How serious accidents are also comes into account when considering reworking intersections, Michaud said, and based on such statistics, two other intersections in Londonderry are currently being looked at — one involving Mammoth Road and one involving Route 28.
"The state only has so much money to work on things, so they're going to work on the areas that need the work the most," said Michaud.
But numbers and statistics aren't what neighboring residents remember — the carnage is.
Pitts spoke of the accident that occurred at this intersection in early July.
"We were standing out there at the last accident. We were just saying, 'Oh my gosh, when are they going to do something about this corner?,' because we see it," said Pitts.
Estey spoke, too, of carnage at the intersection. He described an accident involving a tractor trailer carrying sheet rock and a speeding car coming from the opposite direction on Route 102. The accident ended in a fatality. He also made mention of witnessing a fatal motorcycle accident that occurred in the intersection.
A set of traffic lights would also help the fire department, explained MacCaffrie.
"It'd certainly be nice to have a set of lights there that we could control to get (the fire trucks) out quickly onto (Route 102), rather than having to wait and wait and take their chances with everybody else," he said.
Estey, who has gotten into a fender-bender there himself, thinks it is just a matter of time until a fire truck gets hit.
"I've seen a dump truck nearly lock 'em up. They're loaded with asphalt — how do you stop a tri-axel dump truck loaded with asphalt when it's doing 55-60 (mph), and a fire truck pulls out? It's just a matter of time until a fire truck gets clipped," he said.
Since putting in a set of traffic lights isn't currently a priority for the state, Michaud and the Police Department are doing all they can by trying to enforce traffic regulations.
"There's a direct correlation to less serious accidents with high traffic enforcement, and that's why we're out there. We really hit (Route) 102 hard," said Michaud.
As for what drivers can do to make the intersection safer, obeying all posted speed limits is the most important. According to Michaud, speed limits have been researched and are set to allow drivers reasonable time to react to a given situation.
To speed is to surrender reaction times, so logically, "the faster (drivers) go, the more damage can happen. When you're driving an automobile, you should be paying attention to driving an automobile," said Michaud.