Opinion

County deserves response

The failure of state officials to respond to a request from Chester County leaders to create a school zone at a deadly intersection is unconscionable.

In April, the Chester County Council voted unanimously to ask the state Department of Transportation to place school zone signs and lower the speed limit to 35 mph along a stretch of S.C. 9 that was the site of a tragic accident. Two Lewisville Elementary School students died in a crash on March 26 at the intersection of S.C. 9 and Lewisville High School Road.

As school was letting out, a minivan carrying four students was struck by a logging truck heading west on the highway. Troopers determined that the driver of the truck ran a red light and slammed into the minivan.

Since the council vote, county officials have written the DOT twice and sent the agency a copy of a petition containing the signatures of more than 3,200 people asking for changes at the intersection. Other agencies and boards have made the same request, including the Chester County school board and the Fort Lawn Police Department.

Fort Lawn Police Chief Richard Smith personally sent a letter to the DOT, hoping that a police officer's opinion would help illustrate the urgency of the request. Smith was on the scene on the day of the wreck. He has not received a reply from the DOT.

The need for the new signs, a reduction of the speed limit and the school zone designation is apparent. The current speed limit there is 55 mph. No school zone should be unmarked or have a speed limit that high.

It is uncertain whether the changes would have prevented this terrible accident. Nonetheless, lowering the speed limit and clearly designating the area as a school zone could induce drivers to be more careful and lower the risk of future accidents.

County officials concede that even if the need seems apparent, there is no assurance the DOT will act to make the changes. Nonetheless, those pressing for the change are miffed -- justifiably, we think -- that DOT officials have not even acknowledged receiving the letters and the petition.

Why should it take more than three months for DOT representatives to at least let the residents of Chester County know that they are looking into the matter? Why, in fact, haven't they already made a decision to go ahead and do what residents and county officials have asked?

This is a no-brainer. This is an unsafe speed limit for a road near a school. Making the simple changes the county has requested could save lives.

Why hasn't the DOT responded?

IN SUMMARY

Department of Public Safety should have responded to request for school zone.

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