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Huge spike in Harford County traffic deaths baffles police

An extremely deadly February on Harford County, Maryland, roads has police officials concerned yet uncertain about the reasons behind an unusually high number of fatal car accidents last month.

Seven people were killed in less than 29 days, which is almost a third of what the county sees over an entire year. Many more were seriously injured. The deaths, which occurred between Feb. 7 and Feb. 20, included two elderly women, a motorcyclist, three siblings and a pedestrian.

The most prominent crash involved two brothers and a sister who were traveling on Route 543 when their vehicle crossed the center line and sideswiped an oncoming car, spun around and was broadsided by a second vehicle. The crash's impact sliced the car in half and the two brothers were ejected from the car and died. Their sister was also killed and two people in one of the other vehicles suffered serious injuries. The accident, called one of the worst crashes in recent history by local police and emergency responders, is still under investigation.

Harford County typically ranks lower in fatal crashes than other Maryland counties, including Prince George's, Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties. Baltimore City also usually sees higher crash numbers.

Harford County's sheriff has promised to look into new initiatives for lowering the fatality rate, but is clearly frustrated by the numbers. "There's not a whole lot we can do in a lot of instances to prevent an accident. That's why they call it an accident," he said. "What we need to do in law enforcement ... is we can't just say, 'well, there's nothing we can do' and continue on."

The sheriff has said in the past that the county's roads aren't able to handle the exponential increase in traffic volume over the past 25 years. For example, Route 543, the road on which the three siblings crashed, is a two-lane highway linking the north central part of the county with Interstate 95. But it's become a major route for commuters to Baltimore who want to avoid driving through Bel Air on their way to and from work.

Whatever the reason for the increase in serious accidents, it's led to more families losing loved ones and more injured people losing their ability to work and care for themselves. If the trend continues, more victims and their families will be searching for the means to recover and put the accidents behind them.

Source:, "Harford highway deaths took huge spike in February," Bryna Zumer, March 1, 2012

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