High number of traffic fatalities exasperate police

There may be no discernible pattern to the high number of traffic fatalities in Harford County so far in 2012 — except that it's bad.

Since Jan. 1, 15 people have died in accidents on Harford County highways, an average of three deaths a month through the end of May. On the bright side, the last highway death recorded this year was on May 20, almost three weeks ago.

At that rate, however, Harford could be on track for more than 30 highway deaths this year, possibly much worse. By comparison, 23 people were killed on county highways in all of 2011, while 24 died in 2010.

Some of the more disturbing trends this year:

• Three people died in a single accident near Bel Air in February; two died in a May crash in Fallston.

• The same day as the Feb. 20 triple fatal near, a pedestrian was killed in Edgewood.

• Both multiple fatality accidents involved head-on collisions on single-lane, heavily traveled state highways, as did two other single fatality crashes.

• Four pedestrians have died so far this year; two were hit inside the Aberdeen city limits.

Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane expressed his frustration recently when he noted that although his office is doing an "excellent" job of bringing down the crime rate, they are not as successful when it comes to traffic fatalities in the county.

They have been meeting with the Traffic Task Force, which also includes Maryland State Police, Bane said, to discuss the areas that need more traffic enforcement.

"I'm just very frustrated by the whole thing," Bane said late last month. "I just have never seen anything like this before." The sheriff has been in law enforcement in Harford County for more than three decades.

He also pointed out that many of the circumstances that cause the accidents are out of their control, something Maryland State Police Lt. Charles Moore mentioned as well, but that the sheriff's office is trying to determine what to do in terms of public safety to prevent the deaths.

For Moore, the commander of the Bel Air Barrack, much of the prevention boils down to "saturating" known high traffic and dangerous roads and intersections with law enforcement to try and deter impatient driving decisions. In many of the serious crashes, the causes were failures to yield rights-of-way Moore said, and with traffic backups, people doing things they would not normally do.

"People are taking too many chances to make their turns," he said, adding that drivers are leaving their passengers "vulnerable."

Maryland State Police also have been collecting data from 2009 through 2011 on high volume crimes and crashes and sending it to Washington College and the office of crime control so those organizations can develop crash maps for further studies.

Of the 12 fatal crashes this year, in which 15 people died, Moore said the main causes are failure to obey traffic control device instructions, failure to obey stop signs, possible medical conditions and driving too fast for conditions to name a few.

Moore also urged drivers to extend welfare and concerns to other drivers on the roads.

A map of this year's fatalities shows the majority have bee concentrated in the most populated portion of the county, particularly from Bel Air south.

A summary of this year's fatal accidents follows:

Jan. 26 - Route 22 and Beards Hill Road in Aberdeen - Car ran into tractor trailer at intersection; driver of car died.

Feb. 7 - Route 7 near Mill Road in Abingdon - Car crossed center line and hit school bus head on; passenger in car died.

Feb. 9 - Route 152 and Trimble Road in Joppa - Car hit utility pole; driver died.

Feb. 18 - Route 440 east of Route 1 in Dublin - Motorcycle crossed center line and deflected off dump truck; driver of motorcycle died.

Feb. 20 - Route 755 south of Hanson Road in Edgewood - Pedestrian crossing road hit by car; pedestrian died.

Feb. 20 - Route 543 south of Wheel Road near Bel Air - Car crossed center line hit another car head on and third vehicle hit first; driver and two passengers in first vehicle died.

March 2 - Route 543 and Goat Hill Road in Creswell - Van crossed center line, caromed off a car and hit a third vehicle head on; driver of third vehicle died.

March 16 - 1600 block of Bel Air South Parkway in Bel Air - Pedestrian crossing road hit by car; pedestrian dies.

March 24 - Route 22 and Middleton Road in Aberdeen - Pedestrian crossing road hit by car; pedestrian dies.

April 27 - 100 block of South Philadelphia Boulevard (Route 40) in Aberdeen - Pedestrian crossing road hit by car; pedestrian dies.

May 8 - Route 152 east of Reckord Road in Fallston - A pickup truck crossed the center line and hit an SUV head on, and a Jeep hit the rear of the SUV; the driver of the pickup and the driver of the SUV died.

May 20 - Route 40 east of Robin Hood Road near Aberdeen - An SUV crossed the center median and struck another SUV head on. The driver of the first SUV died.

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