To The Daily Sun,
Placing Jersey barriers on the Laconia Bypass will do nothing to cause drivers to pay more attention or slow drivers down, in fact may encourage some to drive even faster. I speak from the experience of driving to downtown Concord via Interstate 393 every day for over six years.
I-393 has some similar characteristics to the bypass in that you have long straight stretches of road heading downhill with a large open horizon in front of you. The section of 393 between Exit 2 and its terminus on North Main Street is posted for 45 MPH I believe, has two travel lanes, several on/off ramps, and is lined with Jersey barriers. With the exception of the Jersey barriers these are similar circumstances to our bypass.
My daily experience driving I-393 was that traffic moved at close to 65 mph, even in the sections partitioned off by Jersey barriers, and that to position yourself to use one of the on/off ramps required a dance of defensive driving. Those that didn't negotiate the dance well either left paint on the Jersey barriers, scraped the guardrails, or rear-ended the drivers in front of them.
The positioning of barriers also made it impossible for police to effectively make a traffic stop without endangering lives. The worst accident I saw when was someone lost control of their car on an icy patch and their car spun around across the road leaving the oncoming traffic absolutely no way to avoid a collision because they were tightly hemmed in by the barriers on one side and guardrails on the other.
Lastly, there is the question of the impact to wildlife. Please understand, I am not saying that the life of a skunk, turtle, deer, bear, dog, cat or any other animal is more important than a human life. What I am saying is that Jersey barriers are a death trap for many animals trying to cross the road. I've seen some truly heart-wrenching scenes of animals with the heads wedged into the tiny spaces under the Jersey barriers trying desperately to get away from traffic to then only be killed by getting run over. Wildlife that is too big to try to go under the barriers become terrified and dart in and out of traffic causing drivers to make dangerous choices.
I tried to save a decades old snapping turtle trapped between the Jersey barriers and the lunch-time rush of traffic that wouldn't/couldn't slow down to let this animal try to get back to the wetland adjacent to the road. I kept trying to help the turtle and not get anybody killed at the same time. Sadly, I didn't have the tools or protection I needed, and the turtle was so big I couldn't move it by grabbing the back of its shell. I had to leave this poor animal to the fate of being crushed to death under the wheels of oncoming traffic it couldn't defend itself against.
I remember traveling around Gilford before the bypass was built. Once the bypass was built I rode or drove on it every day of my life until just a few years ago. This rash of accidents has less to do with the road and more to do with the changing way we behave on our roads. We need to ask our police officers to allocate more time to not only enforcing the traffic laws but also to making the traffic stops that warn drivers when they appear to be inattentively or aggressively driving, and when road conditions have deteriorated to the point of requiring increased caution.
- Category: Letters
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