AUBURN — Denis Leblanc on Wednesday described his near miss on Route 4 — a common experience for people who live north of Auburn, he said.
"I'm telling you, you never forget something like that," said Leblanc, of Turner Road. "I made it through, but some don't."
Leblanc was one of 26 people to tell his story to a group of city and state officials and transportation planners at Auburn Hall. The meeting was called to discuss the Route 4 corridor, especially the stretch between Auburn's downtown and Turner. It's been the site of numerous accidents this year, and Leblanc said he was almost in one of them.
He said he was waiting to turn into his driveway north of Lake Shore Drive, when he saw two dump trucks in his rearview mirror coming up on him fast in both lanes.
"The dump truck behind me, he decided that instead of slowing down, he would try to speed up and get in front of the other dump truck," Leblanc said. "And then he realized he wasn't going to make it."
Leblanc saw a small break in the nearest lane of the oncoming southbound traffic and he took it — pulling into the oncoming cars just long enough to let the truck pass.
"As I looked up, I saw him going by and he had his eyes closed, figuring he was going to kill me," he said. "And sure enough, he would have, if I hadn't gotten out of the way."
Marc Liberman, the father of 5-year-old Danika DeMayo, described what happens when cars can't get out of the way of oncoming traffic.
The car carrying Danika and her mother, Amy Liberman, was hit by a speeding truck while waiting to turn left off Route 4 in August.
"Danika's brain went from rest to accelerating to 50 mph inside her skull," Liberman said. "Her skull was fractured. She was finally LifeFlighted to Maine Medical Center where she was given a 30 percent probability of dying."
She survived, but Liberman said the family may never know the full extent of the injuries she sustained.
"We ask all of you to change your focus from traffic and vehicles to the people inside of them," Liberman said. "They are mothers, wives, brothers, sisters, husbands, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers and children. Serious crashes impact their lives in horrible ways."
Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte, leading Wednesday's meeting, said the goal was not to come up with short-term solutions, but to begin coming up with ideas and listing solutions. Those could range from changing traffic patterns to traffic controls such as medians, lights and rotaries.
Residents agreed on three potential solutions: widening the road to add a dedicated left-turn lane down the middle, reducing the speed limit and having police enforce existing speed limits.
"I think the five-lane thing, the turning lane, is marvelous," said Deb Desjardins of Turner Road. "But there's another thing: We need to re-educate people. They don't know how to use them."
David Barrett of Turner Road said he would like to see the road reduced to one travel lane in either direction.
"Why do we need four lanes?" he said. "It's two lanes all the way north of us, but it's the same amount of traffic."
Barrett said he knows the biggest changes have to come in the drivers' brains. He said he's seen cars traveling in the oncoming lanes and driving aggressively.
"The road is not dangerous," he said. "It's a perfectly good road with good visibility. The problem is people."
Quoting comedian Ron White, Barrett said, "You can't fix stupid."
Mayor LaBonte said the city would attempt to begin tracking near misses, as well as accidents, on the city's website, www.auburnmaine.gov. City Engineer Dan Goyette said residents could report their experiences and near-miss collisions on the page.