Mercer County’s portion of U.S. Route 52 is known for its crashes and other traffic problems, so the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department is using a federal grant to address problems ranging from speeding to DUI.
One reoccurring sight is a sheriff’s department cruiser monitoring traffic at the intersection of Route 52 and Route 123 in Brushfork. A traffic light regulates the flow of motorists, but the location has seen several crashes.
“We did a study of the location,” said Tom Camden, district manager for West Virginia Department of Highways. “The traffic engineering department did it. As far as the traffic light is concerned, they found it was functioning as intended. They checked things like how long it took to go from yellow to red, how long people have to turn left to go to the (Brushfork) armory, that sort of thing. They didn’t recommend any changes there.”
Travelers coming in both directions on Route 52 must navigate a steep hill before they reach the Brushfork traffic light. Whether motorists pay attention to their driving and whether they obey speed limits is a factor in the number of crashes in Brushfork, Camden said.
“The one variable in all this is obviously the drivers and the traffic. That is a steep hill, and the speed limit is 45 mph. No matter how many signs you can put up or traffic signals, it comes down to how well people observe those directions,” he said. “Driving in West Virginia can be a challenge due to the terrain. I think most people in this area are aware of where those intersections are and that you need to take precautions at those sites.”
The same can be said in other states. Most every region has its equivalent of a “dead man’s turn” where caution should be exercised, he said.
To address traffic problems on Route 52, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department has received a federal grant to help cover overtime, said Lt. Joe Parks. It covers the Route 52 Safe and Sober program to address drunk driving, Target Red Light to help ensure that people obey red traffic lights, and Click It or Ticket, which covers seat belt use.
Deputy A.M. Ballard, who was not available Friday, manages the grant program, Parks said.
The program covers overtime pay for deputies conducting unlimited DUI patrols on Route 52, Parks said. It also covers more time for deputies to watch over more hazardous places like the Route 52 and Route 123 intersection.
“We keep a tally on it (overtime) and the federal program reimburses us for all the time that’s worked,” Parks said. “It’s just to put more emphasis on traffic.”