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Second Accident In Same Location Prompts Call For Change

While making a remarkable recovery from the first accident, Colleen Kelly Alexander gets hit in the same location while returning home; First she was stunned, then she was hysterical, then she was angry, now she's determined to seek change.

 

On Sunday, Colleen Kelly Alexander and her husband, Sean Alexander, drove to Guilford to visit her cat, who is staying with friends while Colleen continues her recovery from an accident that almost killed her. then headed back home to Clinton on the Boston Post Road late Sunday afternoon. 

And then the unimaginable happened. Shortly after they crossed over into Madison, Sean Alexander says a driver approached the Boston Post Road from Neck Road, and, while looking in the other direction, pulled out, and hit their car.

Unimaginable. It was at the exact same intersection and just a short distance away from where Colleen, while riding her bike from Guilford to Clinton in October 2011, . The yellow lines that show where Colleen's body fell, after the accident ripped most of her lower body to shreds, still mark the road. The October accident almost killed her when she flat-lined in the trauma ward, and almost killed her again when doctors couldn't stop the bleeding. She had been making a remarkable recovery. And now this.

Memories from the first accident collide with the reality of the second accident

Colleen says she was stunned. Then, as memories from the first accident collided with the reality of the second accident, she says she became hysterical.

Madison Police arrived within minutes and paramedics were called to make sure no one was injured this time. Sean says the other driver received a ticket, and, after about an hour on the scene, he and Colleen made their way home.

Colleen says at first she was angry and upset. "I was losing it, just crying," she said.

"Please pray for us"

When she got home, Colleen talked with her friends on Facebook about what happened. "On the way back home from visiting my cat a woman ran the same stop sign where I got run over and front ended us where my body was bloodied in October. I had a total traumatic melt down reliving the entire accident. Please pray for us. I'm a total mess," she wrote. Her friends sent prayers and wrote words of love, support, outrage, and encouragement. Some pleaded with her to stay away from that intersection.

But, within about a half hour, Colleen had another plan.

"I'm advocating this week for a light to be installed and bike lane," she wrote to her friends. "Rather than avoid I want to help change it and make that area safer for everyone."

Seeking change, one step at a time

She said she first wants to raise awareness about the dangers of the intersection, and that she then wants to write to the local traffic authority. 

The local traffic authority in Madison is the Board of Police Commissioners. Police Commissioner Thom Cartledge is responsible for traffic issues. He said he would be happy to review such a request. 

"My responsibility on the police commission is traffic," he said. "And making such a request is quite simple. I started a procedure that is working quite well. I'm not saying the results will be simple. But the process of getting started is simple."

An email can get the process started

Cartledge said that Colleen and Sean, or anyone else, can initiate a review or request relating to traffic, signage, parking, traffic signals or related matters by sending an email to him at tjcartledge@sbcglobal.net, with a copy to Madison Town Engineer Michael Ott at ottm@madisonct.org, and to the Madison Police Department Executive Assistant to the Chief Christie Hodge at hodgecs@madisonct.org

"That is put into our traffic log and we start the process on a first-in, first-out basis," he said. "So if [Colleen] would like to send me an email with any specifics she wants to put in about the accident, or request to have a review made, I would welcome that."

Cartledge said the review will take into account the fact that it is a state road, but also a town road, along with traffic speeds, the number of traffic accidents, and other factors. "We try to take everything into consideration and respond as favorably as we can," he said.

Despite the fact that she almost died twice several months ago, Colleen at first seems like just the person to take on such a task.

Dressed in red, and looking radiant

At her home in Clinton, on Monday evening, the night after the second accident, a door opens from a back room where Colleen has been receiving care from a visiting nurse.

The first clue we have that Colleen is on her way to the front room is that Sedona, Colleen's dog, stands up, grabs her blue squishy bone and heads over to greet Colleen, tail wagging wildly. Sedona walks with a limp and carefully. She is blind. Still, she's the first to know that Colleen is all set with her session and on her way. Colleen walks slowly in to the front room, dressed in red and looking radiant.

Colleen calls Sedona "her soul" because Sedona has been with Colleen for so long, and through other troubles. Despite Sedona's physical problems, she's pretty clear about her mission in life. She loves to swim and loves to fetch and loves Colleen and Sean.

Colleen walks slowly over to a chair, where she stops.

Whispered words of encouragement, and then tears

Sean, who stood up when Colleen walked into the room, walks over to Colleen, gently takes her arms and whispers words of encouragement as this woman, who not too long ago rode her bike for thousands of miles and participated in triathlons, slowly, painfully lowers herself, with Sean's support, into a chair. Yes, she's made a remarkable recovery so far, but she still has a long way to go before she is healed.

The organs, the muscles, the bones, the sinews, the veins, and the arteries in her pelvic area and leg were decimated. The surgeons are carefully rebuilding her. In the meantime she is in excruciating pain.

Sean has been devoted. He helps her and attends to her needs. She says she is so grateful for all he has done, but misses what they had before the accident. "I lay there feeling humiliated and gross," she says, while he unpacks and packs her wounds with gauze and changes her dressings before they go to bed. 

She talks about the accident Sunday night, but with difficulty. Her smile fades, tears come to her eyes and Sean takes her hand.

"Up until last night, I was just in survival mode"

"I started thinking, am I cursed? What are the odds that someone blows the same stop sign and runs right into us?" she asks. She is silent for a moment, then wipes away the tears and continues. "But perhaps if this second accident didn't happen I wouldn't feel as fueled up as I do. Up until last night I was just in survival mode. I just wanted to heal."

Sean and Colleen said the emergency responders from Madison have told them they have responded to many other accidents in that area of Boston Post Road over the years.

Colleen says she has had many moments of anger and despair during her recovery. "I sob every day. I have panic attacks. I have anxiety. I'm a mess," she said. But she said she also considers it something of a miracle that she is still alive.

"What is it going to take for something to get changed?"

"This happened and I'm still alive. They keep telling me that if I wasn't a conditioned athlete, I would be dead right now," said Colleen, who used to ride her bike hundreds of miles on fund-raising trips for causes she believed in. "I flat-lined. I had to be resuscitated. I almost bled out several times."

"What is it going to take for something to get changed at that intersection?" she asked. "Is it going to take someone dying? It's a dangerous road. I am so angry. What if that girl [driving the car Sunday afternoon] had killed someone? For the rest of her life, she would be haunted." 

In fact, Colleen's and Sean's anger now is not directed at the driver of the car Sunday, or even at the truck driver in the October accident. Their anger, and subsequent desire for change, is leveled directly at the triangular intersection in front of the Old School House Deli plaza, where Neck Road empties out on to Boston Post Road.

A complicated intersection

Neck Road splits off into two directions where it meets the Boston Post Road. From either split of the y-shaped intersection, drivers can turn right or left. In addition, drivers coming from the parking lot of the plaza, which includes a package store and another store, can turn right or left, from two entrances onto the Boston Post Road. So drivers coming from Neck Road on to the Boston Post Road have to evaluate traffic coming from multiple entrances before making a choice to pull on to the Boston Post Road, where traffic is traveling at 40 mph and that's only if people are going the speed limit. Many drivers travel much faster. Complicating that is a curve and small rise just before that intersection that conceals traffic coming from Guilford until right before it gets to the intersection.

So if a driver at the left fork of the Neck Road (as you look at the Boston Post Road) looks left first, then looks right to evaluate all of the other options before pulling out, they have to look left again before making the decision to pull out, then right again, then left again to make sure it's safe. Some drivers do, some don't. Then they have to floor it to make it out into the intersection safely before more traffic comes from the direction of Guilford or from the parking lot of the deli. Complicating matters is that on foggy or rainy nights, it's dark, even with the lights. On Monday night, the night after the second accident, the light right above the left fork of Neck Road was out, making visibility even worse than it usually is. If it's just snowed, snowbanks limit visibility as well. And there are driveways from homes on Boston Post Road emptying on to the road as well.

"That's insane," Colleen says of the intersection. She wants to take it on and change it. Colleen says she's a fighter. "I wasn't supposed to walk for six months, but I'm walking now."

"Somebody will be taken out of this world ... I don't want that to happen"

She said a light, and a bike path, on Boston Post Road are both worth fighting for. "If something isn't done, someone could get killed. Somebody's mother. Somebody's kid. Somebody's grandparent will be taken out of this world. I don't want that to happen."

Colleen knows she has to go slow, because she still has so much healing to do, and so many difficult and complicated operations to get through. She also needs to rest and get well. She hopes she can find people to help her with her quest.

She and Sean have already received some support that is helping them through these hard times. Colleen did lose her job, but she was able to retain her insurance benefits at least for the next few months. Their landlord offered to let them stay free in their house they are renting.

"We want to put our energy to a higher use"

Instead, Colleen and Sean decided they would pay half of the rent each month, and they plan to pay back the rest when they are able. Still, they said, if not for the generosity of their landlord, they would not have been able to stay in their home.

They hope they will similarly find support as they ask for a traffic light and bike path on Boston Post Road.

"We both think that a higher power is telling us to do something about this," Sean says. "Instead of getting angry, we want to put our energy to a higher use."

Elizabeth January 25, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Two points. That area is very close to Mungertown Road where it is next to impossible to take a left onto BPR. I imagine if a light was installed there the traffic would back up as far as Mungertown (and further) and then you would probably have to give up all hopes of getting on to BPR from that direction and go the back way down Johnson and then to Fort Path, which will make that road worse than it is (which is extremely dangerous as well, especially the Railroad Bridge part!) I understand about pulling out of the Schoolhouse Deli lot - you really have to take your time and look both ways often before it's so safe to do so but I don't feel it's neceessary to have a traffic light there. I think ultimately that the problem is that there are just so many dangerous drivers on the road (speeding, cell phone talking and texting, just plain distracted). It seems to me that no one cares about anyone else on the road except themselves. I had the green light on Bradley Road and 79 last night and still someone when right on red and pulled out onto Bradley right in front of me! How do you fix dangerous and selfish drivers! I'm terribly sorry for your injuries Colleen and hope you recover fully - I truly wish you well. But I'm not on board on having a traffic light in that area.
Wendy Oberg January 25, 2012 at 02:15 PM
l have lived off of Neck Road for almost nine years now and realized immediately after moving here just how dangerous that intersection is. Whenever I have to turn left to go toward Guilford, it is definitely a challenge. The corner of Mungertown Rd. when you turn left from Mungertown onto the Boston Post Rd is another bad spot. You actually have even less time to see if someone is coming. People fly around that corner and you really have to be alert to get across the road before another car appears. Another dangerous corner is the one across from the Madison Golf Club. I was heading home (toward Guilford) one evening when a car traveling at a high rate of speed in the opposite lane skidded across the lane right in front of me as I was going around that curve and into the embankment and then took off. If I had been one or two seconds further down the road that would have been the end of me! After reading over what I have written, the common factors in them all are the curves on a very heavily traveled state road and speed. Perhaps more police patrols at those spots as well as permanent blinking warning signs to reduce speed would be a solution.
Sean Alexander January 25, 2012 at 05:02 PM
For the record Matt.. The freight truck was coming down neck and made a right onto BPR towards MAdison. He rolled through the stop sign and rolled right over me. If you go to the location, you can see where my body finished being dragged. The road is spray painted. The truck turned right, ran over me then dragged and rolled me.. he did not even know he ran me over... the only reason the driver stopped (per the P.D) was because he heard something grinding under his truck (my bike) and other cars honked at him. It wasn't until then that he pulled over and saw my body on the road. Maybe a traffic light isn't the answer. Maybe a flashing light which denotes a dangerous intersection ahead is.. regardless, something needs to be done.
Jon January 25, 2012 at 05:03 PM
By all means, take Rt 95 to get anywhere from now on. I too have been hit by a car while on a bike. RT1 is a deathtrap, especially around Neck Rd. and the curve near Madison Country Club. Wait until you get back on your bike, your neck will hurt because all you do is look over your shoulder to make sure those around you see you. Factoring in PDA devices being used while people are driving and you have a recipe for disaster. You ask, how much is a life worth, well, ask an actuary. The residents of Madison are already paying for the swamp land they overpaid for, right next to Clinton in fact. They cannot spare to pay a cent more. In states like RI and MA, there are old railways that are now paved and can be used for cycling, that is the safer place to go.
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 25, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Colleen, it makes my blood run cold to read that. It makes me want to request a light, flashing lights, a lower speed limit, and anything else that might in any way help prevent something like that from happening again. Still, I have to say, I don't know exactly what the best measure would be, and I'm content to leave that to engineers and people who are better versed in "traffic calming" measures. I look forward to learning more from them. To your larger point, I think there are many options when it comes to evaluating intersections that are perceived as unsafe, as this intersection is by many. Some cost a lot of money, and some cost time and study, such as lowering speed limits or making decisions to alter traffic patterns. They all come under the heading, as I understand it, of "traffic calming," and I think all of those measure should be evaluated when it comes to this stretch of BPR. Yes, cost should be taken into consideration along with other factors. I know there are many in Madison concerned about responsible spending, and high taxes. I appreciate that you, while you are recovering from your significant injuries, are willing to get this process started with a note to the traffic commission. My neighbors appreciate it too.
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 25, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Matt, do you, or any of the others on this discussion thread who have been living in town for a while, remember when and why the light was put up at BPR/Liberty Street/Lover's Lane? I agree with you about Exit 61 and H/GH.
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 25, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Janet, last night when I was driving around scoping out the traffic light/speed limit specifics on Boston Post Road, I saw a police officer every few miles. I too hope that continues and perhaps the data from whatever actions they take can be taken into consideration when evaluating this stretch of road.
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 25, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Tom, agreed. When I was talking with Colleen and Sean the other night, they were telling me that members of her medical team told her they now give their driving a lot more thought and are much more careful around bike riders and runners. That is another reason why they wanted to tell their story now, even though it clearly was tough on Colleen to talk about it. A little bit of awareness, we hope, can go a long way.
Sean Alexander January 25, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Hi Jon, I try to avoid 95 because a month after moving here from VT two large metal plates off a tractor trailer truck flew off and hit my car causing me to swerve into the other lane and almost get killed. The 95 corridor from NY through RI is one of the most dangerous in the northeast. I would rather not live in a bubble. I get it that taxes are already high. We went broke moving here for my job, which I wound up losing after this accident. People have to take responsibility. Period. -Colleen
Sarah Page Kyrcz January 25, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Pem ~ The light at BPR/Lovers Lane and Route 1 has been there at least 16 years. It was recently reconfigured and now the "No Turn on Red" is very clearly posted up high, in line with the lights. I have been complaining for YEARS about how dangerous that intersection is. My children and I witnessed a horrific accident about a year ago where a woman took a LEFT on red from Lovers onto Route 1. The sound of the cars colliding and the impact of the collision will stay with all of us for years. No one was hurt, miraculously. The fact that Liberty and Lovers don't line up is another cause for concern. I don't know why new lights were installed, I don't know why the No Right on Red was more prominently displayed. I hope it was my constant complaints to the Madison PD. is so GREAT. If not, GREAT. Just hoping the changes bring about a safer intersection for everyone!
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 25, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Interesting. Thanks.
George January 25, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Tom is correct, people simply do not stop when making a right turn. Recognizing that, traffic lights or road realignment won't fix the problem. Poor driving habits aren't limited to right turns either. It's not uncommon for vehicles on BPR to ignore the light at Scotland Avenue/East Wharf Road during the evening hours. I can recall two accidents with fatalities that have occurred in the vicinity of the Neck Road area and neither was at the intersection. One occurred along the straight section of BPR east of the Neck Road. How do you overcome driver error?
Matt January 25, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Colleen & Sean, I stand corrected on the bike accident. I was under the impression that the truck was on RT1 and simply ran you over while passing by you. The two incidents are clearly related to one another in this case now. I would say nearly all of the incidents of me having to "take evasive action" in my 150 miles a week on my bike is people nosing out passed a stop sign or light. Not that people are blowing the lights or stop signs. But that they are nosing passed them up to the main road to get a better view. It's habit that everyone does. I'm slamming on my brakes for the noses of cars sticking out all the time. However, when the driver does see me, they are usually started and feel terrible about. They're not trying to drive stupidly, its just how everyone drives. Now in your case, it sounds like the driver was making a right, looked to see no cars coming and looked right over/passed you. Seen it, dodged it, hate it. Unfortunately, I don't think a traffic light would have helped you. People planning to make a right turn at a controlled intersection will do the same thing whether it is a red light or a stop sign. They both have the same meaning and procedure as far as right turns go. If they'll roll passed a stop sign to make what appears to be a clear right turn, they'll do it to a red light too. I watch them do it every day. I don't think there is any way to prevent it. The only defense is assuming everyone is planning to run you over.
Janet January 26, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Yes, unfortunately a driver who rolls through a stop sign will likely also roll through a red light to make a right.
Janet January 26, 2012 at 02:16 AM
High taxes due to the swamp land and ALSO the fact that town officials who refuse to insist that the BOE cut budgets even though enrollment has declined drastically and will continue to do so.
Abigail January 27, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Matt- Whom ever you are- I think you aren't seeing the point. Or just saying you "feel" for her.. when In all actuality you don't. NO one feels for Colleen except Colleen.. and others that have been run over by a truck.. This intersection may have been deemed safe many years ago with lower speed limits and less traffic. I believe that many factors make this intersection unsafe including a hill coming up to it, several turns that are not at a right angle, and traffic also coming out of the small shopping area. Please do not continue to argue the point which you can’t completely disagree with. A traffic light will FORCE people to slow down. And yes some people will turn right on red and run traffic lights. But engineering can make intersections like this safer.. I'm not saying we will save every life that comes to a crash at this intersection, but by lowering the speed limit and putting a light in their chances of survival may increase.
Valerie Leeds January 27, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Sadly, even if people organize and are vocal, getting a red light takes a ridiculous amount of time. There was series of accidents on Rte. 17 in Durham, at the intersection of Pickett Lane by the middle school. In 2007 people organized and protested, so in 2008 the state started studying the traffic there; the study was completed in 2010, money approved in 2011, announced last week (2012), and it will be installed in April, 2013!!!! Remember Rte 1 and Rte 17 are state roads. But Neck Road is a town road, and if enough people complained we might be able to get the two legs that connect with Rte 1 to be one way. It should also be a reasonable and affordable fix to have one clearly marked entrance and another exit to the small strip plaza, like CVS has. This is just signage, spray paint and some minor paving work for curb cuts. That could be accomplished in a few months, not years, for a couple of thousand dollars. That would not even be a blip on our taxes.
Matt January 27, 2012 at 09:23 PM
I'm seeing the point exactly and I do feel for her. Apparently you're the one that doesn't see the point??
Colleen Kelly Alexander January 30, 2012 at 10:27 PM
For clarification. This is not about the Town of Madison.. The town has a stop sign there, it is not the fault of the town. The intersection is dangerous BECAUSE people are not being cautious. If drivers paid attention and stopped, accidents would decline. It is due to human error that this accident occurred. The bottom line is that drivers have to be cautious and follow the law and always be aware.. and cyclists must follow the same rules that cars follow if they are to be on the roadways. I was following all of the rules.
Sarah Page Kyrcz January 30, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Colleen. You may want to do a little research because I believe if there are any changes that affect Route 1 it would not involve Madison at all - it would fall under the auspices of the State of Connecticut who is responsible for all state roads.
George January 30, 2012 at 11:07 PM
This particular intersection is between a series of bends in the road. Heading east, the speed limit is posted at 40 approximately opposite the car dealerships, I'm not sure what the posted limit is, or where it's posted, when heading west but it must be the same. Petition the State to drop the speed limit from 40 to 35mph prior to each bend, Madison can park a cruiser at the School House, then stand back and watch the brake lights. Who gets the revenue for tickets along BPR?
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 31, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Sarah, actually the process is to petition the town and then the town's traffic commission takes it from there. Even though it is a state road, the town does have some involvement. Here is a small example ... a couple weeks ago I saw that the overhead light at that intersection was out. I sent an email (as outlined in the story under the sub-head "an email can get the process started") about the light being out. The next day I got an email back from the town engineer saying that the state had been notified. Tonight, the light is working. In the case of a request for a traffic light, a change in the speed limit, or reconfiguration of the road, obviously the process would be longer and the bar higher as data would have to be evaluated as to what a possible solution might be. I give Colleen credit for (instead of pointing fingers or blaming people) asking, what can be done to make it safer? Maybe something will change, maybe it won't, but it's worthwhile to ask the question. If we don't ask, we'll never know.
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 31, 2012 at 01:38 AM
George, I like that idea! Just sent an email to town officials checking on the answer to that question. I think the revenue goes to the town, not sure. The speed limit on that road in town varies from 45 (I think it goes that high in some parts, not sure, have to double check) to 35 mph.
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 31, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Also, the stop sign is on Neck Road, so I think that would be a town stop sign. not sure ...
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 31, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Actually, I sent the request in on the 24th, so six days ago ... that seems pretty quick. Maybe it was already on their list. Still, it's nice to have it fixed.
Matt January 31, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Unfortunately a traffic light will still have people roll the right turn. I've often considered carrying a bucket of nails on my bike that I can toss out as needed.
Elizabeth January 31, 2012 at 12:55 PM
I think George had one of the best ideas so far. I wonder how Colleen would feel about that as a start. I drive that section of road many times a day and am always in and out of the plaza. At the very least, this story has raised awareness about the traffic issues there and may have woken more than a few people up regarding their driving in that area. I also think Matt is right. If a light is installed there more people would be apt to roll through it because they won't want to wait for the light!
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 31, 2012 at 03:46 PM
For what it's worth, here is the answer re tickets and revenue to the town. It's a little off topic, but interesting ... The state gets the money from all state infractions (tickets) that are issued in Madison by Madison police regardless of whether it's a state road or town road. Payments are made to the state's Centralized Infractions Bureau. The state does give back a portion of the ticket money to the town which goes into the general fund. That amounts to about two to three dollars a ticket. So not much. And it's probably not a great idea to try to raise revenue by catching people speeding. But a lower speed limit, along with enforcement of that lower limit, might have an effect. Or would it? There is always the law of unintended consequences, of course. Still, this is not a question of ethics or metaphysics, it's a question for town officials, the town engineer, and their counterparts in the state once a request has been made, with input from town residents. It would be interesting to see what they think, once data about accidents and engineering considerations have been taken into account.
Jonathan Sanders January 31, 2012 at 03:59 PM
People "roll" through the intersection when taking a right from Neck to BPR because of the way the road is configured. It is a "merging" type right not a "hard" right. It is almost set up as a yield kind of right and many times that is what people do. Also looking to the left to make sure it is clear is not as comfortable as at a 90 degree angled intersection. Kind of an awkward angle.
George January 31, 2012 at 05:34 PM
A traffic light seems dangerous as any stopped traffic to the west would be blind to a vehicle coming up the rise and around the bend.

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