Bob Cooper can see U.S. Route 301 from the sprawling Brandywine Auto Parts complex where he works as safety director. He said he can also see what’s causing a rash of fatal accidents on the road.
“The problem is with driver behavior, not the roadway,” said Cooper. “Everybody is in a hurry and is impatient.”
Many of those who drive or work along Route 301 agree with Cooper that the road itself is only part of the problem on the highway, which has already recorded 15 traffic deaths this year. Eleven of those deaths have come on the Prince George’s County stretch of the highway.
The other half of the problem is inattentive and aggressive drivers on the high-speed, high-traffic road that is bordered by homes and businesses and peppered with stoplights and crossings.
“A lot of it boils down to driver inattention,” said Lt. Suzanne Jordan of the Maryland State Police barracks in Forestville.
“People are always thinking about where they are going and where they are coming from instead of their driving” she said.
Jordan said the road is not entirely to blame for the number of accidents because it is flat and has good visibility. Others said there are design problems with the road that are compounded by bad drivers.
Kathy Borman, a receptionist at Long and Foster Realtors in Waldorf, said the problem with Route 301 is the number of lights on the highway.
“It is hard to get over to the far lane in between intersections in time to turn,” she said.
Mary Ellen Shelton, the office manager at the White Plains Home Center on the roadway, said the problem is with the speed limit, which ranges from 45 to 55 mph.
“The speed limit is just too high and people speed too much anyway,” she said. “It makes it difficult to merge.”
A truck driver who is familiar with Route 301 said the problem is that motorists do not respect the large number of trucks that use the roadway.
“The people who are driving cars should be educated on what a truck can and cannot do,” said John Adams, the owner of John Adams Trucking in Brandywine.
“When people cut off a truck and slam on their brakes, they need to know that trucks can’t stop that quickly,” Adams said. He said the car drivers are making the “truck drivers look bad.”
Several pilot projects already underway are aimed at improving the road and the recent rash of fatalities has spurred state officials to study safety issues on the Prince George’s County portion of Route 301.
But A.J. Patel, the manager at Forest Hills Motel, said even with the 11 fatal accidents on the Prince George’s County portion of the roadway this year, he has seen no changes to the road.
“We need more lanes but so far, I have seen no improvement,” said Patel.