Neighbors say bad drivers make Route 4 dangerous

Jose Leiva

Marc Liberman of Bryant Pond talks about the dangers of Route 4  during a public hearing held at Auburn Hall on Wednesday . Liberman's 5 year old daughter Danika DeMayo was seriously injured when the car she was riding in was rear ended at the intersection of Route 4 and Lake Shore Drive in Auburn. Liberman said his daughter is still in recovery.

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.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

SCOTT TAYLOR's picture
staff

Near miss reporting

I updated the story to include a link to the City of Auburn's near miss page, www.auburnmaine.gov/Pages/General/Route-4-Near-Miss . If you've almost been involved in an accident, log on and describe it.

Wendi Ward's picture

I think a turning lane would

I think a turning lane would help. I also think where the two lanes merge..it's stupid to have it merge left, which is suppose to be the faster lane. Everyone speeds up to get into the lane. I really don't think signs are going to do any good. A few days after the sign with flashing lights went up..there was an accident just beyond the sign, so that didnt help.

Diana Currier's picture

..

if they weren't in such a hurry to get nowhere.... I ALWAYS experience drivers racing to get to the single lane first, drivers trying to pass in unsafe areas , SLOW DOWN, you'll get there.And I go 60 most of the time

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Some of the folks hit the nail on the head......

Rt. 4 is, in a lot of ways, not that different than a lot of roads in the area. Its been well documented over the years to be a very dangerous road all the way to Livermore. Changes have been made to help reduce problems from the Turner line north over the last few years, but those changes alone aren't the answer. The most important change needed is to force drivers to think. Such as requesting drivers use their headlights ahead. Its things like that, although not often obeyed, it catches peoples attention. That's what is needed in Auburn, attention grabbers. All the repairs and changes in the world, won't work if no one is paying attention.
Many years ago, when I was just a little truck driver, in truck driver school, I had an instructor who had a very unique approach to making you pay attention. A large stick, he would sit next to me and ask what did that last sign say? if I missed it I got a smack from his stick. Now you may think that is a little bizarre, but to this day, some thirty years later, I never miss a road sign. Thats what we need on Rt.4, some way to keep people engaged in driving, not changing CD's or fixing their hair. Other things like checking your mirrors every few seconds to know what is going on all around you is another way to maintain attention.
I feel that along with a center turning lane to the Turner line, along with subtle traffic pattern changes similar to what Turner did, will help keep ,people focused. It's sort of like making them pay attention without them knowing your doing it. I also feel that new drivers need to have habits like reading road signs, and using mirrors constantly, drilled into them from the very start.
I feel the major problem is complacency, once people get free of Center St. they become complaisant, thats when the accidents happen. We need to keep folks thinking the rest of the way up Turner St. If your paying attention, you'll see that car stopped waiting to make a left turn..............

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

Solution

All the signs and warnings wont get you far at all. What instills in these reckless drivers is cost, for commercial drivers its thier loss of employment along with a fine, for other drivers it is the ever increasing fines. That is the way to stop these issues and that means police HAVE TO WORK here, to show a constant visual as well as a determent the cost will be offset with fines once drivers know to slow down or be ticketed this area must be in constant patrol and commercial drivers are very often one of the worse dangers as thier sheer weight makes them a high speed sledgehammer to any vehicle in it's path so the city must stop turning a blind eye to these culprits who go 60-75 through this area. Also turn the speed down to 45 as the clear and present danger warrents such an act.

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