KATHLEEN — Walton and Becky Wood have seen their share of traffic woes outside their home on Sandefur Road.
What they witnessed Sept. 20, however, was too much. Just before noon, two cars crashed head-on about 100 yards from their front door. Edith Johnson, 64, of Perry, was killed in the crash. The other driver, 40-year-old David Thompkins of Warner Robins, was seriously injured. Tara Longbine of Kathleen, who was riding with Thompkins, declined treatment. No charges have been filed as a result of the crash. Officials said Thompkins crossed the road’s center line.
“It was chaotic,” Walton Wood said. “The guy was hanging out of the side of his truck. He had blood coming from his head. The workers were talking with the lady. She seemed OK when they pulled her out.”
According to information from Houston County 911, officials have responded to 10 calls for service regarding accidents on the short road in the past two years. Four of those involved injuries. Before the Sept. 20 accident, officials last responded to a call Aug. 8. It also involved injuries.
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A motorcyclist was also killed on the road this year.
Construction in the area hasn’t made it easier to navigate. Projects are under way to widen Sandefur Road between Lake Joy Road and U.S. 41 and Lake Joy Road between Ga. 96 and Sandefur Road, pushing more traffic down the two-lane road when construction workers are out working.
The trip down the roughly three miles of Sandefur Road from Houston Lake Road to just past Lake Joy Road can be a pain. Drivers barrel through its twists and turns at high speeds, all while encountering residents merging onto the road from blind driveways. While the speed limit on the street hits as low as 35 mph, Wood says many drivers pass his house at much higher speeds.
In the last year, two motorists have been ticketed for driving too fast for conditions, said Capt. William Phelps of the Perry Police Department. Another 14 have been cited for speeding. One driver pulled over was driving 65 mph.
“Unfortunately, it’s happening everywhere,” Phelps said of the speeding. “It’s something we constantly deal with every day.”
Part of the problem is that for the three-mile stretch, different law enforcement agencies are charged with patrolling and controlling what happens along the winding road. At Houston Lake Road, the street is the responsibility of Houston County sheriff’s deputies. Closer to Lake Joy, it becomes the responsibility of Perry police.
The Woodses have talked countless times with elected officials and law enforcement authorities who would listen to their complaints about the road.
Walton Wood expressed some of his concerns in a column this summer for The Sun News, a publication of The Telegraph distributed in Houston and Peach counties. In it, he called that particular part of Sandefur Road “the course,” likening it to a race course.
After the Sept. 20 accident, they took their concerns to the Houston County Commission meeting Sept. 21. There, they were invited to speak at a Vision 2020 meeting the following day, taking the opportunity to speak in front of Houston County Commission Chairman Ned Sanders, Perry Mayor Jimmy Faircloth, and other elected officials in Houston County. The officials seemed interested in helping find a solution to end traffic troubles along the road.
Thursday, the day after the meeting, it appeared their cries had been heard. A larger-than-normal police presence was obvious on the road, and drivers appeared to notice.
“We’re going to be keeping it hot out there,” Phelps said of the police presence. “Everyone would benefit from slowing down.”
Walton Wood just hopes it lasts.
“It could’ve been her,” Walton Wood said, looking at his wife, thinking of the victim from the Sept. 21 crash. “I have two sisters living in that brick house over there. It could have been them.
“The people just don’t pay attention.”
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.