CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The widow of a man killed in a crash at a dangerous intersection in North Charlotte has rallied friends and neighbors to get the road redesigned. Now North Carolina DOT engineers are optimistic they’ll soon find funding to change the road.
(One personal disclosure: I was a personal friend of the man killed in this crash, Steve Hance.)
I didn’t call him Steve. Like many of his friends, I just called him “Flat Top.”
“His e-mail address was “flat top,” says his wife Carol Hance. “Every flat top,” she laughs, “Flat top was taken.”
He wasn’t in the military. But he was a pilot. That’s how he met Carol.
“He was a flight instructor when I was going to flight school,” she says.
Steve worked at the Home Depot near Lake Norman. He was a kind of jack-of-all-trades. In fact, he died driving to work. An apron signed by his friends and co-workers still hangs at a road sign at the intersection where he died, Reames Road and Metromont Industrial Boulevard.
In April of last year, an 18-wheeler driving northbound from Reames onto Metromont Industrial crossed into the southbound lane and T-boned Steve’s Jeep Cherokee, killing him.
“I got a phone call from someone at the trauma center at CMC saying he had been in an accident,” Carol remembers.
She spent the next week with her family in Pennsylvania. On her way back home, she stopped by the intersection where her husband was killed and took pictures, documenting the signs and the layout with a digital camera.
“I wasn't very comfortable doing it but it was one of those fears I had to face,” she says.
She began to research other crashes at the same intersection. Some were very much like Steve’s. Some not. According to the DOT, there had been six accidents in five years – two serious and one fatal – Steve’s.
She wanted something done. But she says, “No one was going to listen to just me so I decided to enlist the help of my neighbors and friends.”
Many drivers use Reames Road as a cut-through from Old Statesville Road (115) to W.T. Harris Boulevard. “A lot of my neighbors use that road to get to the mall or (Interstate) 77,” says Carol.
But heavy truck traffic cuts straight across the southbound lanes of Reames to access Metromont Industrial.
Carol makes it clear that she doesn’t blame the DOT for her husband’s death. But she did ask neighbors, friends, and people at church to write the DOT about redesigning the intersection.
“I wasn't holding them responsible for what happened to Steve but I know that they are strongly committed to safety and could be part of the solution,” she says.
Now it looks like the DOT is listening.
“We drive the roads and our families drive the roads just as everyone else and we want to see them as safe as possible,” says Scott Cole, Division Traffic Engineer for the Division of Highways.
He shows a diagram of the proposed redesign – changing the intersection from a “Y” shape to a more pronounced “T” shape, Heavy truck drivers would have to slow down and make a more conscious left turn.
“I think it's an improvement,” says Carol.
Carol knows a redesign won’t bring Steve back. But it might save someone else.
“It’s only gotten as far as it has because of people’s willingness to get together and share their concerns,” she says.
Now the DOT is hopeful the intersection will qualify for state funding from a special pool of funds set aside to make roads safer.