Do you still remember the thrill at the MVA when you finally got your provisional driver’s license, after 30 classroom hours with other yawning students, 6 behind-the-wheel hours scaring drivers multiple lanes away, and 60 driving hours with your parents praying and screaming next to you? Obtaining the freedom and privilege of driving is one of the most significant achievements for teens. No more guilt from asking for rides during the weekends. No more waiting in the freezing cold after soccer practice. My dad is still whining about the $278 increase on his auto insurance, but I’m happy for him—I’m saving him a lot of time.
Still, every day when I drive by the intersection of Great Star Drive and MD 108, the flowers on the cross remind me of the tragedy that occurred in March 2020—the one that happened in front of me while I was driving with my learner’s permit, the one that took another friend of ours one day before school closed due to the pandemic. It was after that collision that we, the Teen Advisory Committee, started looking for ways to improve the safety of our fellow students’ commute to River Hill High. We worked with our River Hill Traffic and Safety Committee chairman, Mr. Miceli, and our Village Manager, Ms. Smith, to connect several transportation agencies. The Maryland State Highway Administration conducted a 48-hour spot speed study and confirmed that all traffic devices were in accordance with state and national guidelines. The Howard County Police Department provided collision records of the site. We took video clips of the traffic pattern of the left turn lane from MD 108 to Great Star Drive as evidence for the authorities to review. We also solicited feedback from student groups, local driving schools, and Village Board members. Eventually, on July 14, 2020, a dedicated left turn phase was added to the traffic lights. Drivers now have ample time to make the left turn without competing with oncoming traffic, which we hope will prevent similar accidents from happening again.
Our next task is to investigate the newly reconfigured stretch of MD 108 near Sheppard Lane. With the new River Hill Square plaza, which will host 16 businesses, including a post office, bank, restaurants, and stores, the nearby traffic is expected to increase by 5,000 cars per day and will have a significant impact on student commutes. Currently the Traffic and Safety Committee is working with the State Highway Administration and Howard County Department of Public Works to address safety concerns and road enhancement considerations. Now is the best time to speak up and provide your input to the Village.
Our Village and transportation agencies strive to ensure the safety of our residents and student drivers. Nevertheless, the most important factor is you, the driver behind the wheel. As we are getting closer to the end of this pandemic, drive safely and enjoy the unoccupied highways while you still can!
By Trinity Cheng