With the start of school approaching, parents and other drivers need to be aware of a new four-way stop near the Southeast Bulloch middle and high schools.
For the first time, vehicles going north or south on Brooklet-Denmark Road are required to stop at the intersection with Rushing Road and Brannen Pond Road.
Previously, only drivers eastbound on Rushing Road and westbound from Brannen Pond Road faced stop signs and were expected to stop.
But sometimes they didn't. Since April 2013, there have been 22 collisions and one fatality at the intersection, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.
"We looked at the CAD, or computer-aided dispatch sheets, and it appeared that most of the accidents were occurring during the daylight hours, around or close to school taking-in time or letting-out time," he said.
The death at the intersection was that of Willie P. Hiers, 93, in a collision shortly before 6 p.m. on March 4 of this year, when he was a passenger in a 1978 Ford pickup driven by Patricia Hiers Collins, 68.
Driving east on Rushing Road, Collins stopped at the intersection but then pulled into the path of a 2006 Chevrolet pickup driven by Jeffrey Wayne Mock, 45, the Georgia State Patrol reported. Collins was airlifted to a Savannah hospital for treatment, and two passengers from Mock's vehicle suffered minor injuries. No charges were filed, a State Patrol operator said last week.
After calls from parents and neighborhood residents concerned about the number of accidents at the intersection, Wynn said, county officials had made previous efforts to get drivers' attention. These included installing rumble strips and extra signs on the Rushing and Brannen Pond approaches. In addition to the usual signs on the right, these roads also have stop signs and stop-ahead signs on the left-hand side.
"We put additional stop signs up, we put additional rumble strips on Brannen and on Rushing, but the accidents continued," Wynn said.
So Wynn, County Engineer Kirk Tatum and Transportation Director Dink Butler discussed what else could be done.
"We felt like the best and safest solution was to put a four-way stop there, to slow down that traffic from Brooklet headed out to the high school area and the middle school area," Wynn said.
The county staff members also consulted the Georgia Department of Transportation, he said.
A page submitted to the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners for their June 7 meeting cites 457 vehicles as an average eight-hour traffic count on Brooklet-Denmark Road. Above 300 vehicles on Brooklet-Denmark was the threshold for making changes to the intersection, the document states, but it states 200 as the threshold for Rushing Road and Brannen Road, with an average of 202 vehicles in eight hours.
A 24-hour count of 5,494 vehicles was also mentioned, but the report does not say when the count was taken.
At the June 7 meeting, the county commissioners unanimously approved the four-way stop.
With the same vote, they approved reducing the speed limit from 55 to 45 mph on Brannen Pond Road, Rushing Road and Pretoria-Rushing Road where not otherwise posted. Existing 35 mph zones remain in effect.
As a first step to alert people to the four-way stop, the new stop signs and stop-ahead signs on Brooklet-Denmark Road were erected earlier this month but covered in black plastic. Portable message boards facing north and south flashed "4 Way Stop Coming Soon."
The plastic was removed Monday afternoon, putting the new stop sings into effect. The message boards, with an updated message, will remain well into August as a reminder to drivers, Wynn said.
Start of school
The change was scheduled to take effect before school starts back for Bulloch County Schools teachers July 25 and for students Aug. 1.
It occurs in an area where traffic usually backs on the first day or two of classes.
"It's going to be a different traffic pattern, obviously, in a location that has a lot of traffic in the mornings and the afternoons, but if it saves one life, it's certainly worth it," Wynn said.
Asked if school officials requested the change, Paul Webb, chief operations officer for the Bulloch County Schools, said they hadn't but were informed in an email from the county.
"Since it is not on a school campus, we depend on the engineers of the county and the state of Georgia DOT to handle these roadway situations," Webb emailed. "I am not sure of the impact that it will have around the school entrance and exit points, but we'll certainly work with Bulloch County officials and law enforcement in any way that they request."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.