Fatal flaw

Another fatal accident on Route 101 in the area between Bedford and Milford? This one was in Amherst.

So, state of New Hampshire, what’s the plan?

From what we can tell, there is no plan.

Several years ago, after another fatal, then-Milford Police Chief Fred Douglas called for jersey barriers on the stretch of the highway that runs through his town. We got rumble strips, which seem to help somewhat.

Over the years, there have been demands for traffic lights at various places in Amherst, but so far, nothing has come of them, and we don’t believe lights will help.

So, state of New Hampshire, what’s the plan?

It’s easy for us to say, “Something must be done.” Anyone can say that. The hard part is coming up with a solution.

A recent edition of Consumer Reports had a piece on road safety with the subtitle “Advances in safety technology are reshaping the auto industry. So why is the highway death toll still stubbornly high?”

Author Jeff Plungis sounded like he was talking about Route 101 when he wrote, “A poorly designed road can escalate a small error into a fatality.”

An error like crossing the center line by just a small amount. That’s what happens too often on that road. It doesn’t take a degree in traffic engineering to know that vehicles traveling in opposite directions and going 50 mph or more should be separated by some kind of barrier.

In the U.S. there are about 12 roadway deaths per 100,000 people, and in much of western Europe, that number is less than five, so some American cities are rethinking road design with safety top of mind, he wrote.

One should hope so, and if cities can do it, why not a state? Clearly this state is doing some work along those lines, what with the 101 widening project in Bedford. But that doesn’t help Amherst or Milford.

Another problem is speed, the magazine reported, “yet outside of cities, the trend has been to set them higher.”

In the area of Route 101 between Bedford and Milford, the limit is 50 but we all know that most drivers consider that a suggestion. Anyone going 50 will find cars tailgating or passing at much greater speeds.

Consumer Reports quoted Russ Martin, director of police and government relations at the Governors Highway Safety Association, as saying motorists have become used to driving faster than the posted speed limit, no matter the number.

So, post it at 50, we go 60. Post it at 65, as much of Route 101 east of Mancester is, and we go 75.

And Martin says that even though people realize that speeding isn’t safe, they do it anyway.

“The public is generally not behind us,” he said of efforts to slow down drivers.

One could posit that the reason for that is most of us think we’re such good drivers that nothing could possibly happen to us. We forget that the “other guy” is thinking the same thing.

New Hampshire has to step in and do something about our dangerous stretch of 101. Sure, driver error can be blamed for many accidents, but there’s no reason to think people are likely to become much more intelligent, more sober and less distractable.

Until the state decides to widen that road and add a barrier between the east and west lanes, forcing traffic to slow down seems the only solution. And in the meantime, why not rumble strips?