During an almost eight-week period from early September into early November, nobody died because of an accident on a Harford County roadway.
Considering that there were already 23 deaths in the previous eight months and two weeks – matching the total for all of 2011, the sudden respite might have been taken as a good omen. In fact, there were no highway deaths recorded in the county in October, and there hadn't been a fatality-free month in years.
Perhaps all the attendant publicity surrounding many of the earlier deaths was finally taking hold in the public conscious; perhaps law enforcement officials' mantra for drivers to slow down and pay better attention was having the desired effect.
The evening of Nov. 17 shattered any such illusions, however, when a smallish car, said to be favored by contemporary street racers, went out of control on a treacherous stretch of Route 624 near Broad Creek in the Street area. The 2008 Mazda3 went airborne and smashed into a tree. Maryland State Police who arrived at the scene said the impact severed the car in two and sent half of it into a ravine.
Inside were five friends, ranging in age from 19 to 21, who were returning from a dinner in Havre de Grace. The driver and two of the passengers were pronounced dead at the scene. Two other passengers were flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore in serious condition. They survived.
The State Police accident report driving too fast for conditions on the two-lane, curvy road was a contributing factor.
Five more people would die in accidents before the year's end, the last fatal accident occurring on New Year's Eve, just 40 minutes before the start of 2013.
Unofficially, 2012 concluded with 31 highway deaths on Harford's highways, a huge spike over both 2010 and 2011.
The Nov. 17 accident in Street was Harford's second accident with three fatalities in 2012. On the evening of Feb. 20, three siblings from Fallston were killed on Route 543 south of Bel Air when their car crossed the center line, hit an oncoming car head-on and then spun around and was hit by a second car. The siblings' vehicle also broke in two.
The State Police accident report from the February triple-fatal says contributing factors included excessive speed, failure of the driver who died to keep to the right of center, failure to give full time attention and driving too fast for conditions.
In addition to the two accidents that involved three fatalities, there were two others in which two people were killed last year.
The first double fatality occurred in May on Route 152 in Joppa when a work truck owned by Harford County Public Schools inexplicably crossed the center line of Route 152 near Reckord Road and was hit head on by an oncoming vehicle. Both drivers were killed, while the driver of a third vehicle that couldn't avoid hitting the second, suffered serious injuries, as did a passenger in the work truck.
The second double-fatal accident occurred on Nov. 24 on I-95 near the Route 24 overpass in Abingdon, and State Police said it appears to have involved some sort of road rage.
A state trooper pulled three people from a burning Lexus early on Saturday morning, likely saving the life of one man, police said, while another man and a teenage girl died from their injuries, according to the Baltimore Sun report on the accident. The driver and one of the passengers died.
According to State Police, the Lexus was hit by a box truck traveling north on the highway after the 31-year-old driver of the Lexus, who was from Abingdon, pulled into the right lane of traffic from the shoulder. Police said that before the accident the driver of the Lexus appeared to have been involved in a dispute with some people riding in a dark-colored Jeep. The Jeep had stopped suddenly, forcing the Lexus to do the same, and the two vehicles had pulled over onto the shoulder, according to police.
A group of people got out of the Jeep and at least one was banging on the windows of the Lexus, police said. The driver pulled away cutting across the northbound lanes of the highway and was hit by the truck, according to police, while the Jeep left the scene. No charges have been filed in connection with the accident.
Police concerns mount
Following the triple-fatality in February, both State Police and Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane appealed to drivers to slow down and pay better attention. As the death toll continued to mount, traffic enforcement efforts were redoubled by both agencies.
In earlier interviews, Bane in particular cautioned drivers to be particularly aware that the county has a lot of two-lane highways that are handling an ever-increasing volume of traffic, a sure prescription for trouble if drivers aren't paying attention. Many of those highways are major travel routes, such as Routes 543 and 152, where there were multiple fatalities 2012.