Traffic: Major highway tragedy inevitable
July 3, 2008 · Updated 10:10 PM
Within the next five years, an accident on south Highway 20 will kill at least five people. KIRO 7 helicopter will be on site hovering overhead, crumpled cars will be strewn along both sides of the highway, ambulances will be lifting bloody bodies from smoking cars, small groups of families will be huddled together, crying, covered by blankets. A TV reporter will be standing before a camera, From what we understand, this accident was caused when a vehicle was making a left turn into a driveway off Highway 20 with several cars stopped behind it. The last stopped car was rammed behind by another vehicle, crushing several cars and pushing the lead car into oncoming traffic resulting in a head-on collision with the opposing traffic.
The reality, however, is that if you know its going to happen, then it aint really an accident. Weve lived on this island for less than a year but I know, and every islander who has driven on Highway 20 knows, that this accident will eventually happen. Unfortunately, it will require the death of several teenagers on their way to school, a retired couple in their RV, a mom with her kids heading home, a Navy pilot serving his country, before we surpass the acceptable death toll on Highway 20 and changes are made to stop the carnage on Highway 20.
A narrow road, too many driveways and infrequently used side roads which intersect Highway 20, impatient speeding drivers, visitors not used to driving on Highway 20, elderly, impaired drivers trying to get to the hospital or medical clinics, make this future accident inevitable. I suspect that changes will not be made until this major disaster occurs.
Im not smart enough to know the solution but I can see the problem. Most of the accidents involve making a left turn off Highway 20 when there is a steady flow of traffic in the opposite direction. Cars get backed up behind the turning car and eventually a driver is distracted and doesnt realize those cars ahead are at a complete standstill in the middle of Highway 20 and it is too late for this car to stop. Solving this problem would cut major traffic accidents on Highway 20, keep some people out of Whidbey General Hospital ER, and cut funeral home business.
Im not a traffic engineer and I realize any change to Highway 20 will be fraught with controversy and will upset people. People will also be upset when family members die because nothing is done to correct the problem. And they will die unless change occurs.