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Let’s do something about 151

[ 26 ] September 7, 2007 |

REFRESH Nelson County Life Magazine HERE for the latest updates:

tanker
The 151 & 635 intersection where Laura, Iliana, and Elschen were killed last Thursday.

By Tommy Stafford
Nelson County Life Magazine
Greenfield, Virginia

I saw a man I’ve known for years lose it the other day. I sat with him Friday as he cried uncontrollably over the sudden death of Laura Cavedo and her daughters, Elschen and Iliana Strickler. Just days before the accident, she had closed on a new home. The kids were excited about picking paint colors for their new rooms. Mom was tickled over the notion she’d now have a dishwasher. It is Labor Day weekend and that house sits empty.

According to an initial report by Virginia State Police, Laura and her two girls were rear ended by a box truck traveling south on Rt. 151 while trying to turn left onto Greenfield Road. The impact pushed Laura’s car into the opposing lane where the vehicle was struck by an oncoming van. The girls died instantly. Their mother joined them about an hour later.

Three people killed, just like that. A mother and her two girls.

So we ask ourselves, why? Why them? Why now?

I think the reason why we Nelsonians feel so shaken by this accident, regardless of whether we knew the victims, is because we know one thing to be true: It could have been us.

Time and distance, both of which we know are related, influence perspective and perhaps perspective and objectivity are in short supply when it comes to this event. Mere minutes and yards separated myself and my wife from Laura’s fate. So yes, my views of the incident may seem distorted, myopic at best. Even so, I think most of us can agree that something must be done.

Once a peaceful country road, Rt. 151 has become a popular shortcut for tractor trailers traveling down I-64 headed to U.S. 29. They say the route shaves time. But at what cost?

151 was never designed to handle the traffic it does today. Locals have told us they have pleaded with VDOT and the county to regulate prohibited rigs along 151 but nothing ever happens. Why? For one, 151 as it exists today has VDOT’s blessing. According to the agency, the road meets all the requirements for long haul truck traffic and speeds are in accordance with this type of highway.

How insulting.

If 151 is an appropriate cut-through for long haul truck traffic moving at the current speeds then VDOT administrators are either severely out of touch, lack common sense, or both.

To be clear, the truck that slammed into Laura’s car was not a long haul truck. But imagine if it was.

I got a call Friday evening from Tim Spicer, the operations manager for Tiger Fuel in Lovingston. “Tommy, something must be done about this,” he told me with a tone so serious, it startled me at first. “This can’t stand any longer.”

Tim lives in Western Albemarle and travels 151 on his way to work in Lovginston each morning. Even though his company uses long haul trucks in its daily business, Tim knows that from a practical standpoint, semi trucks traveling through Nelson — those not making local deliveries — have no business being on Rt. 151. It’s a safety issue. It’s common sense.

We are not asking the state to enact an all-out ban on trucks on 151. Many of us here in Nelson make our living hauling gravel, produce, building materials and the like in and around the county. At a minimum, authorites should begin enforcing the existing laws put in place to make 151 a safe road to travel. Enforce the speed limit. Pull over and fine over length trucks. And let’s begin the discussion about putting in turn lanes at Greenfield Road and other dangerous intersections along the highway.

We are told that VDOT’s long-term plan is to widen 151. But that will only make 151 more trafficked and more accident-prone. Building a bigger highway would change Nelson County and it’s a bad idea.

The safety of 151 was a hot topic at Saturday morning’s RVCC pancake breakfast. A petition circulated at the Nelson Farmers’ Market by local potter Deborah Harkrader seeking a remedy to dangerous traffic patterns on 151 had generated at least 100 signatures by mid-morning, including ours. The good news is we’re talking. Our local authorities now need to listen and this is their chance to act.

Meanwhile, I have been in contact with network and cable news outlets I worked with in the past. What happened Thursday afternoon is news worthy not because “Trucks are Bad” or because 151 is a “Scary Rural Highway”. This is a story because deep inside, we all knew there would one day be a wreck like this on 151, one that would wipe out a family and finally make us mad enough to address the road’s dangerous traffic patterns.

We’ve lost a mother and her two girls for heaven’s sake.

Tommy Stafford, Publisher
Nelson County Life

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Comments (26)

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  1. Christina Kline says:

    Absolutely. I have friends with children from the same area and was terrified for them Thursday afternoon. Not knowing the family that passed does not diminish my horror at the situation.
    I think TURN LANES are the best solution to the growing traffic problem on 151. Gee, you’d think VDOT and the troopers would want to pull over the over-sized trucks cutting through the county. With the new outrageous traffic fines that were enacted this summer to cover road costs, you’d think they’d be trying to get it wherever they can! Besides, how often do the cut-through trucks even stop to give business to the Nelsonians along 151? If they’re going to endanger our lives and families, shouldn’t they be required to give something back to the area? Obviously, that’d be pretty difficult to enforce, but wouldn’t it be nice?
    Regardless, I wish I’d been there to sign that petition yesterday. Is it being published anywhere to gatehr signatures online? How do I contact Deborah to add my name to the list?
    Thanks for your time and for the sensitive manner in which this story has been handled.

  2. Milly Colella says:

    I agree with your story. 151 is suppose to be a scenic road not a death trap. I fear driving myself with all those huge trucks speeding by. Something definitely should be done.

    The fight is on.

    Milly

  3. Heidi Crandall says:

    It is not just about the big rigs, it is the speed that kills. Turning lanes are one solution, but until the speed limit is reduced, nothing will be resolved(from Rt 250 to Rt 664)
    There is an example of such a rural road with the lower speed limit you take from Rt 29 to Manassas.

  4. Heidi Crandall says:

    I forgot to mention that the speed limit is 45 mph

  5. Tommy says:

    We agree Heidi, which is why we are calling for strict enforcement on 151. Right now you can pretty much drive as fast as you want without worry. But without enforcement lower speed limits will do no good.

    How many times have we had someone zip right by us on a yellow double line at 70 MPH just shaking our head as they barely miss a head on collision?

    Right on, we agree to lower limits and rolling enforcement by law enforcement.

    VSP – Please use our drive right out front for starters!
    -T-

  6. Preface note from NCL:

    Tonight we received this comment. He has been most gracious to share some thoughts in the last days of working with Laura. Alain sent these comments to personalize the people you have been reading about over the past few days.
    -T-

    Humm!!! What is life about ?? Did anyone know ??? Why this happen ???

    I meet Laura only few months ago . I was in contact with her ,as just a simple realtor .She was looking for a property and want to move . As I always said There is no business without friendship we became friend . Yes I found a nice house for her in Crozet . I was happy for the kids as they shall be on a safe street with no traffic . I was happy for Laura as it was a new beginning for her .yes I feel responsible someway in this tragedy . I shall live with that , perhaps if I have sold her a house on the east side she shall not get on the 151 to go back home ..

    So ..151 .. designed with all the respect I have by VDOT engineers ..when ??? years ago .. Yes .Safe ?.. yes if you don’t use it .Scarry ?.. all the ways . What we have done ? Nothing .What can we do ? Everything .
    time to talk ? yes . Time to change our voices power? yes ..To be nice is not only the way that we shall gain . It is time to change .How many dead shall we have before to do that ?
    What way to do it ? by ourselves ..spread the word to everyone..when we shall be strong we shall be able to pretend .until the we shall have to relay to any messages ..and you know that it’s never work .

    For you my friend Laura ..I just want to say , yes I shall miss you . your world I am happy in your last email is share in my heart and means so much to me .I am sure that ours ways to our journeys we shall meet again and have this glass of wine . For you my two littles one’s . just want to say I can see your eyes in my vision,LIFE IS A DREAM AND I SHARE IT WITH ALL OF YOU. so don’t worry one day and you know now we shall have a better world .It could be not here , but we shall share it another place .To all of you that read this email to the end , with my good english , tks .. WE ALL SHALL MAKE A DIFFERENCE ..IT IS NEVER TOO LATE ..
    Alain .. and yes I am very sad …

  7. Kendall Cavedo Maynard says:

    Thank you Alain – my sister, Laura and neices, Iliana and Elschen were so, so very happy last week in their new home. It was absolutely perfect for her and the girls. They were thrilled. My sister worked so hard from mid-July (when I met you) through to closing last week. In our many conversations, she was so excited to be picking out paint colors and new furniture for her and the girls and fabric for curtains. I have you to thank for their happiness. Your words are a comfort, thank you. Why? I don’t know and don’t understand either.

    In an email from her dated 12/14/06, she believed “that there is ample evidence that death is simply a door to another world, and had no fear of it.” Yes, we will all miss her and the girls and be very, very sad and we will meet again.

    As for the safety issues – as family, I can’t think right now and have asked close friends to think for me. My sister, Laura was a champion for causes she believed in. For everyone in the community, please continue to champion this cause for me and in her honor. It’s just what she would have done. I thank you for thinking for me. I do not live in the area and need the support of the community to make a difference.

    Thank you to everyone in the community for the tremendous outpouring of love and support. I thank you for already working to make a difference.

    Love – Kendall Cavedo Maynard
    kcmaynard@nc.rr.com

  8. Yvette says:

    Kendall,

    Our hearts go out to you and your family. Even though you are in North Carolina, rest assured Nelson County is thinking of you. Laura and the girls will be deeply missed. They are in our hearts and won’t be forgotten.

    Yvette

  9. sheila says:

    VDOT is planning to WIDEN 151??
    When I bought my house the realtor
    said “zoning would remain the
    same as it is now”. Were they
    planning to widen it into my
    front yard? Was there any way I
    was going to be finding out
    about this in time to escape?

    Roads and vehicles are killing
    the planet!! Emissions and tar
    and paving are destroying lives
    of many species and not just
    our own not to mention some
    extremely scary political
    situations.
    Transportation is a necessity
    and I am grateful for roads.
    Many of you know me as a home
    care nurse who comes to you
    in your homes. Safe roads are
    needed in Nelson County!
    But what will it TAKE to learn
    that moderation is needed??!!
    We can all stand to go slower.
    We can all stand to go outside
    and listen to what is there
    besides our endless machinery
    that makes us feel so safe.

    I took a vow for one carefree
    day per week. You know that
    means one day a week of no pay
    and inconvenience. But it has
    been worth it.

    Many of us knew the family
    through homeschooling. One
    thing that is so hard about
    this is there seems to be
    nothing to DO to make it better.

    So maybe I’ll dedicate my
    carferee days to Clay, Elschen,
    and Illyana. Sign me up too
    to fight any more overuse of
    151 as well.

    sheila

  10. Tommy says:

    Though nothing official has been put in writing as far as we know, we were told as recently as Saturday morning by a county official, the long term plan would be to widen the road. They said it would be years though, to be accurate. Again, our position, if you limit long haul traffic to the interstates and U.S. highways that are built for them, you eliminate any need to widen the road for decades at the earliest.
    -T-

  11. Deborah Harkrader says:

    Tommy and Yvette,

    Thanks so much for sending the column. For now, I’d like to say that 131 people signed the “Petition to Improve safety on Rt 151” on Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market. I expect we could have had another 100 signers on Sat. if we had petitions at the Pancake Breakfast. Along with signatures, many people also recorded their thoughts on the road situation and how to improve it.

    I think we need to have a community meeting to generate ideas and opinions about ways to improve the safety on the road. It would be a great way for citizens of Nelson, together with the various involved parties: VDOT, State and local police, Rescue personnel, elected officials, and regular users of the highway to share their perspectives and come up with possible solutions. We could also remember Laura, Elshin and Iliana, along with the victims of the other numerous accidents which have occurred and continue happening so frequently.

    I was really overwhelmed with grief on Saturday. In the pressure of situation – trying to take care of customers and talk to people about the accident and petition, I knocked over and broke one of my large Blue Ridge Landscape plates. I now plan to glue it back together and place it on the marker which will be installed at the cemetery on Shannon Farm Community, where Laura and the girls lived.

    On Sunday morning I collected a jar of water from the creek just behind their home and took it to add to the communal pot of “Living Waters,” collected in a ritual of remembrance at the Unitarian Universalist fellowship of Waynesboro. Though it was my first time visiting the church, The congregation welcomed me with open hearts and arms as I recounted my grief, and added the “tears of the Shannon Farm community” to the vessel.

    The lesson, for me, is to remember that life flows on, sometimes murky, sometimes clear, sometimes abundant, sometimes barely a trickle, and the thing is to remember, no matter how painful it gets, to keep your heart open and loving and connect with others around you.

    I’ll be looking for others to join me in the effort to make our voices heard – through calls, letters, signs, visits to our supervisors and whatever else might make the powers that be stand up, take notice, and Do Something! about the need for improved safety on Rt. 151.
    My personal commitment is to drive slower through all the dangerous intersections and stay alert…

  12. RJ says:

    I am really sorry for the lost this past week on 151. I would like to say that I’m tried of people blaming the tractor trailers being on 151 everytime somthing happens. Yes we need to have turning lanes and we need slower speed limits. I drive a school bus and I would like to say that the people who live here and have their children ride the buses will pass the buses when we are stoped. I had my own neighbor pass the bus when I was stopped this pass week. If we know that the roads can not handle the traffic then stop building up our end of the county! We have bussiness come and go, empty buildings. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE BUILDING UP OUR END OF THE COUNTY ARE TO BLAIM FOR THE HIGHER TRAFFIC ON 151!. When we moved here from NY in the 70’s it was the best place to live, now it is getting to be to much.

    Just think what is going to happen on 664 and 151 when our community is all built up. The traffice is bad now! it’s so hard getting out of our driveways. And the bus, how many local people endanger our childrens lives. The bus has already been hit by a truck two years ago by a local person. So think long and hard about in coming traffic when you let bussiness and other development come into this end of the county. Think People Think

  13. Margaret says:

    I believe that if we lower the speed limit that it will make our small road less attractive to the big rigs who cut over to save time. It can’t be easier for them to use 151! But 151 carries a lot of traffic that is not big rig and will not go away even if no one else moves in. We see service trucks and logging trucks and school buses and tractors and tourists and locals and been-here’s and moved-here’s and moved-here-so-long-ago-I-been-here’s. All of this traffic has to be slower to reduce accidents.

    I didn’t know Laura and her girls but I feel it’s the least we can do to affect some change in their honor. I don’t want 151 to get bigger, just better and SLOWER. (Turn lanes are a good idea too.) So count my name on the survey and I’m emailing my government representatives.

    Thanks for your excellent coverage of this and your wonderful emotions, Tommy.

  14. Keith Peck says:

    Goodbye Clay,

    I always loved you.

    Keith

  15. Rhonda Ponton says:

    I agree, I had the same wreck in 1997. I was waiting in traffic on 151 making a left hand turn onto Greenfield Road and was rear-end while sitting still. Thankfully, the car has just passed me or the fate could/would have been the same. My injuries are still real. My back was broken in two places along with other minor breaks and soft tissue injuries. I use to drive a tractor trailor, and I don’t really think that is the issue. I believe that people are in such a hurry that they are simply not paying attention to their surroundings. Accidents are simply that accidents. When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle it is your responsibility to be aware. I now work for a personal injury law firm and I see so many cases where people were just NOT PAYING ATTENTION. One other possibility, if putting a turning lane in at this location, would possibly lower the speed limmit in that area. People have a tendency to look over at Ashelys Store when passing and by the time they look back at the road, they have hit someone turning at Greenfield. My prayers are with the family. I agree that something needs to be done there.

  16. Chris Manno says:

    It seems to me that any idea VDOT might have about improving the safety on Rt. 151 could take a long time to put into action.
    I think what happened to Laura and the girls proves we have turned a blind eye long enough.
    I am concerned about what it might mean to widen the road. Do we really want a bigger road cutting through our area? Do we really want all that construction?

    Can’t we all just slow down?

    I have my own ideas about improving the safety on 151 and am determined to drive 45mph while on it .I can’t change 151’s speed limit , but I can change mine.

  17. Henri says:

    This is so sad. It seems that it was not that long ago, maybe 12 years or that VDOT fixed this intersection to make it safer. Why a turn-lane was not added at that time is a mystery to me.

    It is unlikely that speeding will ever be controlled. One winter Sunday evening at about 6: 30 we had a BMW pass us on a double yellow line coming from the Rockfish Church to the Martin Store intersection, 6 & 151. It flew around us at about 70 mph. Had it not been for all those who stopped, well, there would have been metal everywhere. Due to the time of day, my thought was that this was likely a skier fresh off the slopes and still high from downhill skiing.

    Since we can not control speeding, a turn-lane makes the most sense, as it would give another vehicle room to pass. Next time you are on Rt. 250 look at the lanes. Much of it has now been converted to three lanes, with the center lane often reserved for turning.

    As mentioned above, many look over at Ashleys, maybe to check the gas price. Then, maybe look down to call someone on the cell phone about the price. That few seconds of “Not Paying Attention” in that short strip is all that it takes and then it is too late. An extra turn-lane may prevent these accidents.

    Just over the next hill Senator Emily Couric was able to get a turn-lane added at the entrance to the new Rockfish School. Can you imagine what it would be like if that lane were not there now? It will take time and we know that there is little VDOT budget money, but with pressure our legislature will have to complete this task for the safety of all.
    The only question remains: How many more must pay this price?

    Tommy, Thanks for keeping this very important blog running. It is a big service to the community.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with all the family and friends.

    Henri

  18. sheila says:

    Noble Editors!! I didn’t mean
    to say CARE free day or
    CARFERee day! Sorry!
    I was saying CAR FREE as in
    not driving once a week.
    There are some
    awesome statistics on what
    would happen if 1/10th of
    Americans cut their car use
    by 10%. Check out
    http://www.worldcarfree.net
    Anyway this is the vow I took
    this August–now I will have
    something personal to hook
    this vow to.

    ss

  19. Deborah Harkrader says:

    After our Project 151 group meeting last Friday, I went home and hand-made signs for both my vehicles thay say IN BIG LETTERS
    DRIVE 45 ON RT. 151. Since then, I have done just that, and have not had any problem with cars behind me unitl today. (I’ve also had several “thumbs-up!”) A fellow honked at me when I slowed down to 35 in the school zone and again when I stopped for an oncoming School Bus with flashing lights….Come on, people! I urge you all to take the DRIVE 45 challenge….It does take a few minutes more, but it feels so much more relaxing, once you’ve decided that’s the speed you’re driving. Tell your friends too!

  20. Mrs. Parker says:

    Maybe the speed limit needs to be reduced to 45mph on all or sections of 151.

  21. Diane says:

    I think lower speed limits on sections would be safer. With lower limits on the whole road we take the chance of people passing others even more that might cause even more accidents. Also, some kind of flashing light right before you get to ashleys that say cars turning up ahead(like the school zone sign) might help also. Maybe with flashing lights & a speed limit of 35 before you get to ashleys all the way pass your place of business tommy would help. It would be a start for us. They wouldn’t have to do any road work so they can get it done ASAP. I think that would make everyone feel a little but until we can get a turning lane at 635.

  22. Christina Kline says:

    I am all for the new speed limit. It is the best way to affect change immediately, whether the state mandates the change or not. Keep our families alive, drive 45!!!

  23. TJ says:

    http://www.newsadvance.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=LNA/MGArticle/LNA_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173352800711&path=

    Know thine enemy!

    From this article sounds like the problem is the Sheriff’s dept, the State Police, BOS, and the bad drivers. And the majority that have been apathetic to the problem.

    Look forward to helping your cause. What is the plan?

    Having been a truck driver, I would venture to say many of the drivers using 151 are local guys. They wouldn’t know about the short cut otherwise and would stick to main routes especially where steep hills are involved.

    There is a ban already on 151, I would guess, on anything over 45′ long,8′ wide, and grossing over 80,000lbs, for anything but local deliveries.

    Many of the trucks I’ve seen using 151 are over the 45′ length, so right there you have an enforcement problem. Your local sheriff and typical State trooper are not trained to identify or control this problem.( they don’t have a clue and are not certified) A certified State DOT Trooper is the man or woman for that job. Truck drivers use cell phones and CB’s to alert one another when the portable scale and DOT check station is open. So not a whole lot of chance catching many drivers that way, except the unlucky or ignorant and only when DOT is at the scales.

    I’d say most 18 wheeler drivers are the best drivers on the road. They have to be in order to keep their CDL’s. Commercial Drivers license.

    If they work for a company they are drug tested, have a medical exam and carry a card stating as such. They keep detailed logs of their time and location, which are pretty close to the truth most of the time.

    The BOS is where you need to start. They can get the speed limit lowered and increase DOT rolling enforcement. They just need to make it a priority. The only way they will make it a priority is for people to threaten there votes to get reelected.

    Remember everything we have and buy came in a truck. Somehow we have to get along with them, but there is a whole lot both the truck driver and the average driver can do to further that cause.

    Good Luck.

    For more insight into trucking here’s your best source.

    http://www.ooida.com/

  24. Tommy says:

    Hi TJ,

    Thanks for dropping us a note.

    You have many valid points. In addition to the link you provided above in the News & Advance, folks should read this one as well from George Seitz, retired state trooper, and team member of the http://www.project151.org He makes a very compelling argument.

    http://www.dailyprogress.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=CDP/MGArticle/CDP_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173352800958

    Large trucks 65′ and under are actually allowed to travel 151 and 6. Hard to believe since they can’t even make the turn at Route 6 without running off the road, but it’s allowed under current law. That should be stopped immediately.

    You are correct when you say the BOS and VDOT have refused to address this problem. As long as 15 years ago the father of one of a Project 151 team member worked to get something done, nothing happened. Countless others have tried since with the same results. It’s one reason Project 151 was created. It is working at the governor’s level and beyond at the federal level. There has been no accountability at the lower levels in year’s past. The local BOS for the district where the three people were killed last month was quoted in the Charlottesville paper saying, “It’s not going to happen.” That’s really being receptive and open to finding a solution so someone else might not have to lose family members.

    You are right again TJ, most truckers are law abiding drivers working and doing a great job. We need the trucking industry. I am a capitalist and understand the need for commerce. But the situation here is out of control because it’s been allowed to get out of control due to lack of enforcement.

    You would think after three people were killed in an accident like last month’s, if for no other reason other than to save face, law enforcement would be out in force. We have seen nothing of the local authorities or the state since. Nothing.

    Project 151’s own data shows excessive speeding continues unchecked by authorities. Many big rigs are going more than 70 MPH along 151 in the very spot where the three were killed. It is especially bad in the early morning hours between 2 and 6 AM before any troopers are on duty in the area.

    You bring up lots of good points and we do need to remember that unfortunately as in many professions, a few bad apples can make the whole industry look bad. We know that’s not the case and commend thr truck drivers that are setting a good example.
    -T-

  25. TJ says:

    T

    I checked out your photo page. Excellent idea!

    Try to get the driver zoomed in, if possible, so he/she, can’t say it wasn’t he or she. Also the time, and date are import as you probably are already aware.

    I would also call the companies at the time of the reckless actions, with tractor number and trailer number, along with tags if you can get them. That way the dispatcher will have a record. If you could find out who their insurance is carried through a copy should be sent to them. That will get more attention than anything else. The company does not want it’s rates going up or being dropped entirely. Your evidence could certainly do that.

    If you can get some signs posted on 151 stating that video taping is taking place that will also cause folks to check their bad and dangerous habits. No one will want to be on your wall of shame! :>)

    But I’m sure some attorney will find a way to go after invasion of privacy and all that, so be careful.

    The truckers will also become reluctant to go into “hostile” territory, and if they do travel 151 they will not want to risk their livelihood .

    Great work!!!!

  26. John Carr says:

    I bet you if it had been a van load of skiers coming or going to Wintergreen, the problem would be fixed in a month…but it wasnt, so no telling how long it will take, if ever before it gets corrected.
    Look how long it took and how many accidents had to happen on HW 29 in Lovingston after they built the Food Lion before they put a traffic light up there.
    I wish you the best of luck!

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