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Traffic deaths prompt review Reduced speed limit, signal change possible at Harford intersection


BEL AIR -- Maryland State Police say they will seek signal changes and possibly a lower speed limit at a busy Harford County intersection where a 6-year-old girl and her grandmother were killed Saturday.

"There's a problem here," said Cpl. William Vogt, who investigated the accident in which Diane Neumyer, 58, of the 1700 block Prindle Drive and a granddaughter, Heather Prezioso of the 700 block of White Oak Drive, both in Bel Air, were killed.

Ten collisions have occurred at the intersection since Jan. 3, including one Friday involving a state police officer, Vogt said.

Of the 10, seven accidents caused injuries. In nine cases, the crashes occurred when drivers attempted to turn left on a green light from Route 24 onto Bel Air South Parkway, he said.

Neumyer was driving north on Route 24 when she tried to turn left onto Bel Air South Parkway. The green turn arrow had changed to a solid green allowing southbound traffic to proceed at the posted speed of 55 mph. Meanwhile, southbound cars waiting to turn left onto the parkway probably obstructed Neumyer's view of the oncoming traffic when she tried to turn, Vogt said.

Neumyer's daughter, Robin Prezioso, 32, and the driver of the other vehicle, Michael J. Mulcahey of Southbury, Conn., were injured.

Donald R. Morrison, spokesman for the Harford County Department of Education, said the parents of Heather's first-grade classmates and the teachers at Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School in Bel Air were contacted yesterday and told of the accident.

He said a crisis intervention team will be at the school all day today to counsel students and teachers who might have difficulty coping with the loss.

"All schools are a close-knit family, and it's important to make certain everyone at Homestead-Wakefield receives as much help possible to guide them through a very difficult time," he said.

Less than 24 hours earlier, a similar collision involving a state police officer left one person injured. Police said the trooper was driving south on Route 24 about 4: 30 p.m. Friday when he tried to turn left onto the parkway and his vehicle was struck by a northbound vehicle.

Vogt said he would ask the State Highway Administration for signal changes that would prohibit cars from turning left onto the parkway unless they have a green arrow. He said he also would ask the highway administration to consider lowering the speed limit to reduce the chance of injuries.

Residents and people who work in the area say the changes have been needed.

"It's like a mini I-95 through here," said Cathy Frazier, a secretary at Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty, which faces the intersection. "People are driving too fast."

"It's a very difficult intersection," said Rick Pinchot, general manager of Bertucci's Brick Oven Pizzeria at the crossroads.

Pinchot said 55 mph is too fast for the busy intersection where cars are turning to go into the Festival at Bel Air Shopping Center, several popular restaurants and housing developments.

Joseph Coleman, who lives nearby in the 400 block of Darby Lane, avoids the intersection when possible. "It's very, very bad," he said. "There's a lot of traffic, and visibility isn't especially good. A lot of people don't obey general traffic rules."

Human error is the main culprit, said state police Sgt. Roy Nelson of the Bel Air barracks, who travels Route 24 daily. He said he doesn't think the problem is with the signal or the speed. "It's just inattentive drivers," he said.

Pub Date: 2/24/97

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