You wouldn't think new stop signs at an intersection would cause a big hubbub, but it sure has in Columbia's Village of Hickory Ridge.
Three accidents in the past three weeks at the corner of Owen Brown Road and Martin Drive have residents worried.
County work crews have already started to correct the problem by installing "rumble strips" on Owen Brown Road to alert motorists that they must now yield to traffic on the newly extended Martin Drive.
Workers began laying the strips this week, but ran out of materials, said C. Edward Walter, chief of the county's division of traffic engineering. The county also plans to replace the standard 36-inch stop signs with 4-foot signs. The project should be completed before Thanksgiving, he said.
"We're doing just about everything we can to alert people that there's a new traffic pattern at the intersection," Mr. Walter said. "Unfortunately, people have been driving along Owen Brown for a long time without a stop at the intersection. Old habits are very hard to break."
Motorists driving along Owen Brown Road already are alerted to the new stop sign at Martin Drive by yellow signs located well before the intersection, and the stop signs are made more noticeable by orange and red flags placed above them, Mr. Walter said.
Hickory Ridge Village Manager Jane Parrish says accidents began occurring soon after the installation of stop signs on Owen Brown Road about three weeks ago to accommodate the opening of the extension of Martin Drive from Owen Brown Road north to Hickory Ridge Road.
County traffic officials had tried a temporary solution to ease motorists into the new traffic pattern by making the intersection a four-way stop when the Martin Drive extension opened Sept. 23.
But even with the advance warning, some motorists using Owen Brown Road -- one of the oldest thoroughfares in Columbia -- still aren't paying attention to the new traffic pattern, said Sgt. Lee Goldman, chief of traffic enforcement for the county police.
"Clearly some people aren't paying attention when they drive on the road and need something else to wake them up," he said.
So far, no one's been seriously injured in the three accidents, the most recent of which occurred Sunday, Sergeant Goldman said.
The Hickory Ridge village board has requested that the county consider erecting a flashing red or yellow traffic light at the intersection.
But neither Mr. Walter nor Sergeant Goldman believe a traffic signal is warranted.
Mr. Walter said that sight distance on Owen Brown road before the stop signs is considered excellent. "It's a straight shot. Drivers have plenty of time to see the stop sign," he said. Also, he said, the rumble strips are far less costly and should be just as effective as a flashing traffic signal. The rumble strips should cost about $300, Mr. Walter said.
Ms. Parrish, the village manager, said some Hickory Ridge residents think the county should consider another measure -- returning the four-way stop at the intersection.
"With the holidays coming up we're bound to have a lot of people who've been out of town awhile coming through . . . ," she said.