BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Following a serious motor vehicle accident at the corner of Washington Valley Road and Blossom Drive between a school bus and two cars that sent two to the hospital, one with life-threatening injuries, resident John Arcoleo is stepping up his work on a petition he created four years ago to reduce the speed limit in that area.
In the petition, Arcoleo said the current speed limit of 40 miles per hour in the area of Sunset Lake, from Hunter Road to Coriell, is too fast considering the lack of sidewalks and curbs, and the narrow winding road. The petition is asking people to sign if they would like to see a change to the speed limit on that road.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 192 signatures, with a goal of 500 so it can be submitted to the police.
Arcoleo said there have been many accidents in that area, include five that stand out especially. About 20 years ago, he said, a woman died in an early morning single car accident, and, about 15 years ago, a man died in the Chambers Brook tributary, about 100 feet closer to Frohlin Drive.
"There was a Revolutionary War-aged oak tree directly in front of the 18th century house that used to catch the drunks and sleepy people, but the county cut it down when it died," he said. "This driver kept driving on the grass until his car went 6 feet down into the ditch."
About 12 years ago, Arcoleo said, he had to restrain a drunk driver on his neighbor's property until police arrived after he had run off the road.
"I started to get concerned about accidents," he said.
Then, about 10 years ago, Arcoleo said, two children were seriously hurt right past Frohlin when the driver claimed he never saw them.
"I started to ask about improving the traffic safety, but was just too busy with life to get the process going," he said. "Peter Mone was friends with the family, and we talked about safety issues since he was a Martinsville Rescue Squad member and fire department volunteer."
Arcoleo said he has installed a number of pine trees on his property since several cars have spun off the westbound lanes, doing a 180 on his property.
"I installed pine trees to prevent them from traveling into my neighbor's house," he said. "I put some medium-sized pine trees on my property to prevent them from going off the road."
About four years ago, Arcoleo said, an elderly couple did a 180-degree spin off Washington Valley Road and landed in his yard. He helped to extricate them because the car had landed on its roof.
"Without those trees, they would have done a complete rollover," he said.
Arcoleo said that that is when he went to the police department to find out what it would take to get the speed limit lowered.
"Petitions were needed before they could consider requesting the county to do a road study," he said. "I prepared a petition and a total of six people signed before I had to shut it down."
"The basic ridicule of 'who cares' didn't go down well with me," he added. "I was told by the police that the basic concept of setting a speed limit for a particular portion of road is the 85 percent rule. If 85 percent can handle it without taking additional driver responses, that would dictate the speed limit for the road."
About two years ago, Arcoleo said, the county worked to improve the sight line on his neighbor's property abutting Frohlin to allow people to see down the road. The posted speed limit at the time was 40 miles per hour.
"There were about three trees that needed to be removed from my property in order to see seven seconds down the road," he said. "The county was totally insistent that they needed to see seven seconds line of sight at 45 miles per hour because that was the new speed limit they were designing for."
"I was complaining that 40 miles per hour was too fast, they were insistent the road could potentially be rated for 45 miles per hour," he added. "Then I knew I was banging my head against the wall with the police and the county engineering department."
Now, the petition is up again on change.org, and Arcoleo said he had more than 120 signatures by 11 p.m. Thursday, after the recent accident on Washington Valley Road.
On Thursday, a 2015 Honda Accord, driven by Adelaide Pereira of Basking Ridge, was driving north on Blossom Drive and attempting to turn right onto Washington Valley Road. Pereira hit a full size unloaded school bus – owned by First Student and being driven by Douglas Ferriday of Bedminster – as it drove east on Washington Valley Road through the intersection.
The impact between the school bus and Honda, police said, redirected the bus into the westbound lane of Washington Valley Road, right into the driver's side of a 2012 Ford Flex, driven by Harry Olaya, of Hillsborough.
Pereira was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital New Brunswick and Ferriday was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, both with non-life threatening injuries. Olaya was taken to Morristown Memorial Hospital via NJSP Northstar Medivac helicopter with life threatening injuries.
To sign the petition, visit http://chng.it/qH7GYvvf5G.