A Forest Hill man died Friday morning in a three-car crash on Route 543 near Goat Hill Road in Creswell, under circumstances similar to a crash almost two weeks ago in which three siblings died.
The accident comes following one of the deadliest months on Harford roads in several years. Seven people died in motor vehicle crashes in February. Nine have died in a little more than two months this year.
In addition, Maryland State Police said they will step up traffic law enforcement along Route 543 from the Bel Air area south to I-95, as the highway is becoming one of the most deadly in the county, if not the entire state.
Around 7:40 a.m. Friday, Thomas John Higgins, 52, of Guy Way in Dundalk, was driving a 2005 Ford Van north on Route 543 (Creswell Road), south of Goat Hill Road.
The van crossed the center line and sideswiped a Chevrolet Malibu that was being driven south on Creswell Road by James Maxwell French, 62, of Kirby Circle in Bel Air, according to a news release from state police, who are investigating the crash.
The van caromed off the Malibu and then struck a 1995 Volkswagen Golf, head-on, which also was heading south on Route 453. The Volkswagen Golf was driven by George Kreutzer Jr., 53, of High Point Road in Forest Hill, according to the release.
Mr. Kreutzer was flown by Maryland State Police medevac to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he later died.
Higgins was taken by ambulance to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with minor injuries and was later released.
Based upon interviews and statements made at the crash scene, state police said it appears Higgins fell asleep, causing the van to cross the center line into oncoming traffic, according to the news release.
Cpl. M.G. Brady, an accident reconstructionist, and Trooper P.D. Orem are investigating the crash and consulting with the Harford County State's Attorney's Office as to the pursuit of charges.
As of Tuesday afternoon, State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly wrote in an e-mail that there would be no charges considered until the police finish their investigation.
Maryland State Police are trying to identify "high crash" areas in Harford County, and as a result of the recent fatalities, enforcement activities were planned throughout this week along the Creswell Road (Route 543) area between Route 22 and I-95, according to the news release from Lt. Chuck Moore, Bel Air Barrack commander.
Friday's crash was about two miles from the site of an accident Feb. 20, in which three people died after the car they were in sideswiped another car heading toward them, spun around and was hit by a second oncoming car.
Last summer, about 3.4 miles north on Route 543, a woman was killed in a head-on crash.
One of Maryland State Police's primary responsibilities in Harford County is motor vehicle crash reduction, according to a press release. But crash prediction is difficult because there are few similarities in Harford County fatal crashes.
Because of this, the strategy for troopers at the Maryland State Police Bel Air Barrack continues to be that of reducing the common denominator in any fatal crash – the crash itself, Moore said.
In late 2010, after identifying "high crash" areas in collaboration with the Maryland State Highway Administration, state police partnered with the Harford County Sheriff's Office, Aberdeen Police Department, Bel Air Police Department and Havre de Grace Police Department to try and reduce the number of crashes. Police have been doing "high visibility" traffic enforcement in areas designated as "high crash" areas.
The partnerships have significantly increased high visibility enforcement efforts in identified problem areas and maximized resource sharing. Despite the tragic crashes over the past several weeks, including Friday's, innovative concepts like this appear to be making a difference, Moore said in the press release.
Troopers are analyzing crash data more closely than ever before, and doing it daily, to gain valuable "real-time" insight into the total picture of Harford County crashes. Additionally, troopers have collaborated with analysts at Washington College in Chestertown for geo-mapping services to further aid in targeting/identifying areas in need of attention. As a result of technological advancements, there will be even more proactive ideas in the near future dealing with this critical quality of life issue.
Traffic enforcement locations, dates and times will continue to be posted on http://www.mdsp.org (click barracks and Barrack D – Bel Air).
Some encouraging statistics include fatal motor vehicle crashes stabilizing to 23 between 2010 and 2011, Moore said. In 2009, there were 26 fatal motor vehicle crashes in Harford County. In addition, the total number of crashes handled by state police declined from 2,733 in 2010 to 2,698 in 2011.