Four people, including an infant, died when their car collided with a truck during the morning rush hour yesterday on a stretch of Howard County highway that neighbors described as busy and dangerous.
The victims included two adult women and an infant girl, all believed to be from Laurel. Also pronounced dead at the scene on U.S. 1 in Jessup was the car's driver, a man from out of state. A 4-year-old girl was flown to Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, where she was in critical condition late yesterday.
While county police investigated the accident scene yesterday, residents of a nearby community gathered and said the 50 mph speed limit and heavy traffic make for hazardous driving.
"I have been here a little over 1 1/2 years, and I've known at least seven accidents," said Goldie Leizear, who lives in Brentwood Manor. "There is too much traffic through here."
Police were working late yesterday to confirm the identities of the victims, but named the occupants of the truck as Stanley Wells, 54, of Baltimore, who was driving, and Sean Foote, 23, of Columbia. The two work for a liquor distribution company, police said. Both suffered minor injuries and were taken to Howard County General Hospital.
Police said they do not expect to bring charges against the driver of the truck.
The accident occurred just after 7:30 a.m. between Routes 32 and 175. Police said witnesses told investigators that a southbound Nissan Altima crossed the double-yellow center line and collided head-on with the northbound truck.
The Altima was traveling on a stretch of the road that rises gradually before leveling off at Patuxent Range Road, where there is a traffic signal. The accident occurred near the entrance to Brentwood Manor. Police closed U.S. 1 in both directions for five hours.
Onlookers watched as a tow truck prepared to haul away the wreckage. The front portion of the Altima was crushed, though much of the back portion remained intact.
"This is an accident waiting to happen," said Mary Shaffer, who has lived in the 200-unit mobile home community since it opened 15 years ago.
"I always go to the top of the hill and turn around at the light," Shaffer said, referring to the signal at Patuxent Range Road.
"Every time you come in and out of here, you hold your breath," Leizear said, referring to the entrance to the community. "The traffic volume is too high. How many fatalities do we have to have to warrant a light?"
State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck noted the signal at Patuxent Range Road and said "signals have to be placed appropriately."
Referring to the witnesses' accounts to police that the Altima crossed the center line, Buck said, "That has nothing to do with a signal or lack of a signal." The agency has not received formal requests to study that roadway, he said.
The SHA will not release accident statistics for the road until after a final report is released by police, Buck said.
"Route 1 is a very industrial area," he said. "There's a lot of stop-and-go traffic, a lot of turns."
Buck said the administration investigates all reports from fatal crashes on state roads.
Reached yesterday evening by telephone, Leizear said that she and several neighbors plan to write a letter and collect signatures for a petition in an attempt to bring about change. Leizear said she has called the county government several times in recent months to complain about conditions on U.S. 1.
"I just want to cry," Leizear said of yesterday's accident. "It's so sad. ... I think we just need someone to stand up for us and say, 'This needs to be done.'"
Sun reporter Larry Carson contributed to this article.