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Traffic Light Study Preceded Fatal Accident

A piece of an automobile's grill, chrome plastic shards and skid marks extending across the east bound lanes of Old Keene Mill Road after the death of Kathryn Anne Southard, 20, were a grisly reminder of the danger at the Byron Avenue intersection.

"It's a very dangerous intersection," said Gladys Perkins, a member of Springfield Church of Christ, which is also on Byron Avenue. "People aren't doing the speed limit."

According to the Fairfax County Police, the hit-and-run accident occurred at on Thursday, June 10, 12:36 a.m., when Southard was attempting to make a left turn from Byron Avenue onto Old Keene Mill Road. The driver of a 2003 Ford F-150 pickup truck was driving westbound on Old Keene Mill Road and hit her car broadside. Southard's vehicle, a 1992 Subaru Legacy, was pushed across the median and into the eastbound traffic lanes. She was dead at the scene. The pickup continued across the median into the eastbound portion of Old Keene Mill Road and into a tree.

The driver of the pickup truck, later determined to be Oscar Rene Bonilla, 25, of the 8100 block of Blairton Road in the Springfield area, fled the scene. Bonilla later turned himself in.

TAKING A LEFT across three lanes of westbound Old Keene Mill Road, where the 45-mile per hour speed limit is rarely adhered to, is dangerous.

"The sight distance is very short, they're [drivers] are speeding in both directions," said Sharon Hicks, another member Springfield Church of Christ.

Church volunteer Audra Parker remembers seeing a petition floating through the church office for a light at the intersection. The petition was initiated by the West Springfield Little League, Parker said, and the league plays at the ball fields behind the church on Byron. Parker has seen people from the neighborhood on Byron running across Old Keene Mill to the bus stop, which is another dangerous move.

"If there were a light there, there could be a crosswalk for people across the street catching the bus," Parker said.

Getting the Virginia Department of Transportation to put in a traffic light requires a warrant study, traffic counts and accident data. Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) was aware of the request and petition.

"We actually supported getting a signal there," Kauffman said, but VDOT was also concerned with a blind hill on westbound Old Keene Mill just before Byron. A traffic light just beyond the hill could lead to rear-end collisions which was part of VDOT's decision, Kauffman said.

"They reviewed the traffic counts and that was their conclusion," Kauffman said.

Merni Fitzgerald, Fairfax County spokesperson, said the bus stop at that intersection was part of the countywide bus stop study, and it was determined to be safe. That study is due to come out in the fall.