Traffic signal may not be the right solution

The death of 17-year-old Bridget Chambers on Friday at the intersection of Stephanie Way and Highway 395 in Douglas County could become a battle cry for a signal at the intersection.

While a signal can cost a couple hundred thousand dollars, that can't be compared to the life Bridget has lost. But would a signal be the right thing to do? Would it help?

Probably not. We say probably because there is no way to engineer a traffic safety device that takes into account human error. NDOT Chief of Safety Engineering Kelly Anrig said Tuesday a signal is not likely to help there because the same sort of accident could happen, "and people tend to run signals," he said.

Kent Cooper, NDOT assistant director for planning, said one day, a freeway with interchanges could be in place in this stretch of Highway 395, but not any time soon. Grade separations could be put in place sooner than a full freeway, but that decision also is in the future. A study beginning this month will look at this and the rest of the highway south to the state line at Topaz, but the study won't even be complete for a year to 18 months. It's how it should be.

Before Friday's accident, two other crashes involving left turns have occurred there between Jan. 1 1999, and Dec. 31, 2003; both were noninjury accidents. In the same time frame, 28 accidents occurred at the intersection - 13 of these were rear-end collisions, seven were angle crashes, three were folks who ran off the road, one was caused when an object was thrown from a car, another was an out-of-control motorist. The others involved motorists driving under the influence.

In 2004, 7,050 motorists a day traveled Stephanie Way, while about 30,000 were counted on Highway 395. The half signal at Johnson Lane and the left-turn lane at Stephanie were completed in August 1998, after a series of accidents.

"The corridor's been functioning fairly well since," Cooper said.

The state's study of the Highway 395 corridor from Carson City will take into account growth for the next 20-40 years and consider the fact that Highway 395 is an international route for travelers from Canada to Mexico.

While we encourage everyone to take extra caution in their driving, and also send our condolences to Bridget's family, placing a signal at the intersection would only be a knee-jerk response and wouldn't necessarily solve the problem.


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