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County tries to stem wrecks at problem crossing
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An accident-plagued intersection has Effingham County officials wondering what steps to take to make it safer.

Effingham Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie and county commissioners discussed the problems at the Blue Jay-Midland road crossing. A collision between a car and a tractor-trailer at the intersection claimed a woman’s life earlier this month, and another wreck between a semi and a passenger vehicle tied up the routes for several hours last week.

“I’ve been in Effingham 26 years, and it was a problem when I first came here,” Sheriff McDuffie said. “I don’t understand what the problem there is, but it continues to be an ongoing problem. I thought we had the problem remedied, but it seems to have reared its head again.”

While the intersection of Blue Jay and Midland has been the site of several crashes over the years, the more recent serious accidents have involved large trucks.

“Our type of crash has changed at that intersection,” McDuffie said. “People would pull up to the stop sign, stop and pull out right in front of somebody. Now, the trucks have blown (through) the entire stop sign. They’ve driven right though it.”

Commissioner Steve Mason pointed out the last two major accidents at the intersection have involved large trucks traveling Blue Jay Road.

“They’re using that as a truck route,” he said, “which is one of the things I’ve been talking about for a while.”

McDuffie also recommended the county commissioners adopt a no-through truck ordinance, restricting which roads tractor-trailers can traverse. The sheriff pointed out the county has no means to weigh trucks to determine if they are over weight limits, but there are penalties to be assessed for trucks caught on a no-thoroughfare road.

Doing so would not only mean a violation of a county ordinance but also give a citation for violating state rules pertaining to traffic control devices. That would put two points on a driver’s license.

“It has a lot more teeth in it than the ordinance does,” the sheriff said. “That would help us a lot in many different ways.”

Midland Road and Honey Ridge Road are no-through truck routes, though there are exceptions, especially if a truck is making a stop or delivery on one of those roads. But big trucks also are obligated to take the most direct route to a state highway.

Mason said trucks are using Blue Jay as a way to bypass the state scales on Interstate 16.

“That’s what it really boils down to,” he said.

Trucks from South Carolina are using Clyo-Kildare Road as a shortcut to Millen and points north on Highway 21, Mason said.

Speed limits on Blue Jay approaching the intersection with Midland were lowered two years ago. The speed limit drops from 55 mph to 45 mph a half-mile from the intersection and to 35 mph a quarter-mile from the intersection.

Mason and McDuffie also said more visible stop signs could be placed, signs that are larger and brighter. Traffic on Blue Jay Road must stop at the intersection, while traffic on Midland does not stop at the crossing.

“There is a new sign that we’re using that is an enlarged stop sign on each side of the road,” Mason said. “The post is actually high intensity so it’s much brighter, much bigger signal. If that doesn’t help it, I think the next option is to go to a four-way stop.”

Sheriff McDuffie said those signs are in use in South Carolina and are effective.

“I’m hoping these new stop signs, as you come around the curve, will get their attention,” he said. “Personally I don’t know how you can run through the stop sign, unless you’re not paying attention.”

The big trucks also have worn down rumble strips on Blue Jay, according to officials. County Administrator David Crawley said the strips will have to be re-done.

Commissioners voiced their support for any solution to improve safety at the intersection.

“I’m for doing whatever we can do to possibly save a life,” said Commissioner Vera Jones.