If it’s not the most dangerous intersection in lower Delaware, the crossroads of State Route 1 and Wilkins Road, just south of Milford, is certainly on the short list.


If it’s not the most dangerous intersection in lower Delaware, the crossroads of State Route 1 and Wilkins Road, just south of Milford, is certainly on the short list.

Three people have been killed there in the last eight months: On Nov. 22, a head-on collision killed Roseanne Hottes, a 31-year-old mother of one from Rehoboth Beach, and Diana Thornberg, 25, of Lincoln. On June 3, 49-year-old motorcyclist Thomas Brown, of Milford, hit a car trying to cross the highway, and was fatally injured when he was thrown from his bike.

According to state police figures, here have been eight other crashes within a tenth of a mile of that intersection since 2010.

“It’s always been a very dangerous highway,” Milford Mayor Ronnie Rogers said. “At one time there was no light and now we have a blinking light, but it’s still a problem.”

With no stoplight and no overpass, anyone who wants to cross the road or turn left has to go across two lanes of high-speed southbound traffic to get there. Ten times since 2010, that’s led to a high-speed crash. Sometimes someone thinks they can get across the highway faster than they actually can, or they misjudge the speed of the oncoming cars, or they just don’t see the traffic before they cross.

It’s a problem that the department of transportation is preparing to fix with an overpass, scheduled to start building in the spring of 2012.

“This project has complete funding,” DelDOT representative Tina Shockley said. “While DelDOT is deeply saddened that another accident has occurred, be assured DelDOT is moving forward with plans to improve the safety of the intersection as quickly as possible.”

And everyone agrees it’s not safe now. The intersection has become a familiar spot for members of the Carlisle Fire Dept., who get called out to every highway accident in the Milford area.

“I think everybody’s gotten the call to come out there at some point or another,” Carlisle Fire Chief Bill Carpenter said. “For me, there have been so many alarms coming out of that intersection that they run together. It’s tough to remember which was which.”

The intersection doesn’t just cause accidents. The way the crashes usually happen, with one car going across the road and the other hurtling straight down the highway, leads to an especially dangerous collision.

“It causes a T-bone crash, with the front of one car crashing straight into the side of the other, and those are some of the worst,” Carpenter said. “Your only protection on the side of the car is the door itself. It creates a lot of injuries, and a lot of entrapment situations as well.”

Things have gotten better since DelDOT installed a right-turn lane on the southbound side of the highway, Carpenter said, and the planned overpass looks like “it will do the job that it’s required to do.” In the meantime, he said, drivers should be as careful as possible as they approach the intersection, whether they’re on Wilkins Road or the highway.

“People need to pay attention,” he said. “It’s a dangerous situation and a little care can save somebody’s life.”

DelDOT has already tried to fix the intersection once. In 2008, they rolled out a plan to cut off left turns, so anybody at the intersection would have no choice but to turn right instead of going straight across a lane of high-speed traffic. If they wanted to go the other direction, they’d have to make a U-turn a quarter mile down the road.

But that idea was shouted down— largely by Carlisle firefighters and EMTs, who use Wilkins Road as one of their main entrances onto Route 1. Having to make a U-turn, a dangerous maneuver for a vehicle as long as a fire truck, would create its own hazards, they argued. In the end, the plan was abandoned.

“In my opinion that was a Band-Aid,” Rogers said. “I really think we should have had the overpass in sooner. It’s not like they haven’t known it’s been a problem — it’s been that way for many years. Lives have been lost there unnecessarily, in my opinion.”