LUMBERTON — Motorists will have to slow down and be careful approaching Seventh Street and Linwood Avenue for about three more weeks before traffic-control help arrives at the intersection plagued by accidents.
There have been 64 vehicle accidents at the Lumberton intersection from 2004 to 2018. Thirty-eight of them happened within the past six years and resulted in 13 reported injuries, said Robert Ivey, commander of Lumberton Rescue and EMS.
“This intersection has always been a problem,” he said. “There have been some serious wrecks, so serious, people have had to be cut out of vehicles.”
A traffic light is scheduled to be installed within the next three weeks, he said. Residents who live on and near the intersection are all too familiar with the dangers and they pushed for getting a traffic light.
Kenny Simmons and his wife, Terry, have lived on a corner lot at the intersection for about 18 years.
“There have been some discussions. We are concerned about our safety. That thought has crossed our minds. It is amazing that there haven’t been any fatalities or life-threatening injuries,” said Kenny Simmons, a lifelong resident of Godwin Heights. “We are very fortunate there for that, but the accumulation is frustrating and is getting old. There were two accidents here this past week.”
They began to notice a trend about two years after moving in, he said. As the years passed, the number of accidents and their concerns grew.
“I’ve had a mailbox knocked down, a destroyed lawn and some shrubbery,” Kenny Simmons said. “One of my cars was a total loss after it was hit in my driveway when a car collided into it. But the worst time was when a driver took out my front porch. The volume of accidents is just ridiculous.”
They are not the only ones who’ve had issues with damaged property as a result of collisions at the intersection, Kenny Simmons said.
“The neighbor who is catty-cornered and the house down there, they’ve had to do repairs, too,” Kenny Simmons said. “My bigger concern is about safety, for me and my wife, and my neighbors.”
This is not a new problem, he said.
“I’ve been talking to them (city leaders) for the past 10 to 15 years,” Kenny Simmons said. “(City Councilman) Burnis (Wilkins), he’s does a good job. He’s been aware of the situation for the last couple years. He helped. I have to give some credit to him for pressuring other city officials to get a traffic light installed.”
About three years ago, two flashing stop signs targeting cars travelling along Linwood Avenue were installed to help prevent collisions at the intersection, said Wayne Horne, city manager. About six to eight months later a flashing yellow caution light for Seventh Street traffic and a flashing red light for Linwood Avenue traffic were installed. This proved helpful for only a short time.
“Councilman Wilkins suggested flashing stop signs. We did that. Then a flashing signal light. That improved it for a while, then it picked up again,” Horne said. “Let’s look at a traffic signal.”
City Council members approved Wilkins’ request about two months ago and appropriated $31,000 to fund for the traffic signal and its installation.
Drivers need to stay alert, even when the new traffic signal is erected, Wilkins said.
“If I was Mr. Simmons, I would wear a traffic vest when I cut my lawn. He could have been hurt bad after the last wreck,” Wilkins said. “Everyone is living a fast-paced life. They need to think about how fragile life is. They need to slow down and pay attention.”
He is confident the traffic light will help reduce collisions, Wilkins said.
Deputy Police Chief Tommy Barnes echoed Wilkins’ sentiments, and warned drivers that the light will not mean a reduced police presence.
“In addition to the advanced technology, we will still be enforcing citations in that area. It’s human error that is causing these accidents,” Barnes said. “Drivers have to be alert and aware of their surroundings. I hope it reduces the number of accidents. Drivers can run a red light, too, if they aren’t paying attention.”
Kenny Simmons said he is optimistic.
“We are hoping that it will be the solution, the final answer, but only time will tell,” he said. “Looking back I wish something could have been done sooner. It is unfortunate that it’s taken almost 40 accidents in the last seven years to come to the realization that something should have been done.”