Delaware’s 2014 fatal crashes reaching epidemic level

This photo gives a sense of what the finished boardwalk section of the Gordons Pond connector trail will look like. BY CASEY KENTON
April 18, 2014

Delaware’s Office of Highway Safety issued an ominous news release this week. Five highway fatalities last weekend - four of them involving downstate people - pushed this year’s total fatal crashes on Delaware highways to 28. Last year at this point there were 20. Run the numbers. That’s a 40 percent increase over last year, in less than four months.

We have a traffic crash epidemic on our hands, and it’s creating way too much pain and sorrow.

Given the harsh winter, and people anxious to get to the beach and enjoy some heat, everyone is expecting this summer season to be exceptionally busy. That means more cars, bicycles, pedestrians, motorcycles and scooters on our roads. It’s no stretch to project that if nothing changes - in terms of enforcement or lowering speed limits or further curbing texting and driving - the busier summer will mean a level of crashes, fatalities and injuries like we’ve never seen before.

Many people think that texting while driving is becoming a more serious problem than drinking while driving.

During a hallway discussion Wednesday afternoon in the Cape Gazette office, Chris Rausch wondered how long it will be before phone makers use GPS technology to automatically disable texting when the system detects a phone moving at faster than five miles per hour.

According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute: “Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.” How scary is that?

Our federal government maintains a website at to try to bring awareness to the dangers of distracted driving.  It lists a number of things that contribute to distracted driving including talking to passengers, reaching for food, personal grooming, talking on a cellphone and texting. But texting is seen as the worst. “Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.”

So what happened?

On Tuesday afternoon, March 8, 25-year-old Daniel J. Murray of Newark lost his life when the car he was driving crashed into a dump truck at the Route 16 and Route 1 intersection near Milton. It was a cold, dry afternoon, and Murray, according to police reports, was driving south in the left-hand lane of Route 1. The traffic light at the intersection turned red for the Route 1 traffic. The driver of a dump truck pulling a trailer loaded with a backhoe, who had been waiting in the northbound turn lane, pulled into the intersection when his light turned green to head west on Route 16.  Murray, driving through his red light, struck the dump truck’s right front. Despite wearing a seat belt, Murray did not survive the crash.

I have no way of knowing what led to Murray’s running through the light. For whatever reason, he paid an awful price. But I can’t help but wonder whether texting was involved. The Delaware State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit is investigating the accident, and I have a call in to them to determine how such tragedies are investigated and what sort of report will be made. I’ve also placed a call to Delaware’s Office of Highway Safety with similar questions.

Obviously our highways are growing increasingly dangerous. Defensive driving has never been so important.

Another quick trail update

I keep readers updated on the Gordons Pond connector trail work because it is dramatic and will have such a positive impact on our local economy.

Casey Kenton was running recently from the Gordons Pond end of the trail and grabbed a few photographs of the work, which is now progressing quickly. The state is doing a first-class job on this trail through a dynamic ecosystem.

As reported many times, the completion of this connecting trail between the Gordons Pond end of Cape Henlopen State Park and Herring Point at the northern end of the park will create, at minimum, an 18-mile hiking and bicycling loop with Lewes at one end and Rehoboth Beach at the other. It will definitely become a destination trail for cyclists from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. And what shall that loop be named? It might be time for another contest.

Grab some litter when you can

When snows receded after the long winter, the melting revealed a ton of plastic bottles and bags, cans and bottles and other litter, especially along our back roads. Seeing litter like that makes me realize what a great service the many organizations and families provide when they do highway cleanup projects.

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