'Disturbed' by too many highway fatalities, Harford sheriff says

As Harford County's highway death toll has continued to mount this month, the county's chief lawman says the trend is disturbing and expressed hope it can be stopped.

Sheriff Jesse Bane said Wednesday afternoon he has been "disturbed" by the number of fatalities in the past couple of weeks, saying he can't remember a time when there were this many in such a short amount of time.

Bane added that he hopes it's not an "omen of things to come."

There have been seven traffic-related fatalities in the county this month, all coming in less that two weeks and four on a single day – Monday. The county had one highway death in January. All last year, there were 23 traffic-related deaths in Harford.

Monday's deaths included three siblings killed in the multiple vehicle crash near Bel Air and a pedestrian who was killed crossing an Edgewood Street. A motorcyclist was killed when he hit a dump truck near Dublin Saturday morning.

Multitude of reasons

As every accident has its own cause, Bane said there are a multitude of reasons for accidents, making it difficult for law enforcement to get a handle on the issue.

They include too many distracted and rushed drivers, using roadways that are packed with vehicles, he added.

In an effort to work on Harford's traffic problems, the sheriff's office is working with the Harford County Traffic Task Force, which combines local law enforcement, including municipalities and Maryland State Police, to focus on areas where there seem to be frequent traffic problems.

The task force is looking at the recent fatalities to see if they can discern anything, but Bane said that they do not have something specific to address at this point concerning the types of accidents that have occurred.

Preliminary investigations by the sheriff's office and Maryland State Police have indicated both Monday's triple fatal and Saturday's motorcycle accident involved vehicles crossing over center lines on two-lane roads.

A woman who was a passenger in a car involved in a collision with a school bus in Abingdon on Feb. 7, succumbed to her injuries late last week. That accident also involved one vehicle crossing over in front of an oncoming vehicle. Last month's fatality occurred at an Aberdeen intersection where a car turned in front of a tractor trailer and was hit, killing the driver of the car.

Enforcement, cooperation

With new technology, deputies can now write e-tickets, allowing them to write a greater number of traffic citations in a shorter period of time, Bane said.

"It's a whole number of things that we're looking to put in place," he said.

In terms of incorporating local fire departments into the mix, Bane said the sheriff's office is looking for them to participate in media campaigns because their responders work on many personal injury accidents and traffic fatalities.

"[We] want to make sure we're letting the public know that we're united in our effort to fight traffic problems in the count," he said.

At the actual traffic scene, Bane said first responders can also assist the sheriff's office by working on traffic control. In many situations there will be a two-lane road with no shoulder and one deputy attempted to direct traffic and keep everyone safe.

Even prior to Monday's four deaths, Bane was already concerned enough about the county's highway fatality numbers to call for more cooperation among public safety agencies during the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company's annual banquet Saturday night.

After previously being ranked the fifth in the state for the number of traffic fatalities, Bane said the January statistics already showed Harford has moved up to fourth.

Bane thanked the fire company for its cooperation with the sheriff's office.

"We are out there working together on a lot of different things. Unfortunately, as time goes on, we are going to be working closer together on traffic," he said. "We have a very low crime rate; it continues to fall ... The thing where we are really hurting is traffic. That is the biggest complaint from everyone in the county."

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