Editorial: The intersection of simplicity and danger
● By J. Chambless
The road between simple faith and the
dangers of the modern world runs right between the home and barn
owned by Samuel and Sallie Stoltzfus.
The Amish family recently purchased 107 acres of farmland near the intersection of Appleton and Strickersville roads, and are in the process of renovating the barn and operating a dairy farm. Their home sits diagonally across the intersection from the barn, and they must travel several times a day to milk the cows and perform other chores.
The first Amish family to move into Franklin Township is acutely aware of the dangerous Appleton Road, which runs north-south on their property. Its intersection with Strickersville has stop signs, as well as signs warning drivers that traffic on Appleton Road does not stop, but that hasn't prevented several near-misses at the intersection as inattentive drivers assume they are approaching a four-way stop.
Former Franklin Township supervisor Nan Latimer lives nearby, and her daughter had a crash at the intersection when the other driver thought it was a four-way stop.
The Stoltzfus family has horse-drawn farm equipment and buggies which travel across the intersection. Samuel Stoltzfus spoke informally to the Chester County Press last week, saying that a truck had recently pulled into the intersection and nearly collided with a car on Appleton Road. He has written to PennDOT to request stop signs for Appleton Road, and Latimer has taken up his case, but the official ruling from PennDOT is that there must be five “reportable” accidents at an intersection before they will consider installing stop signs. “Would you like to be one of those accidents?” Stoltzfus asked a reporter last week. He fears that the first of these accidents could be one of his family members being struck by a vehicle.
Cars on Appleton Road routinely exceed the speed limit. There are Amish buggy signs posted north and south of the Stoltzfus property, but being vaguely aware that there might be horse-drawn equipment somewhere ahead doesn't do much to prevent a tragedy.
The farm has been used in years past, but with motorized vehicles that had lights and safety equipment, and could quickly move to avoid a collision. When the property was laid out, Appleton Road was a slow, country lane. Now, it's a commuter route from housing developments in the area. Busy at all times of the day, it's a vital corridor in the township but it runs right through the Stoltzfus front yard.
Lancaster County Amish farms are often bisected by roads that are no longer meandering pathways, and there have been ongoing safety concerns. This case is new for this area of Chester County, and while Latimer and current Board of Supervisors chairman John Auerbach are concerned about the Stoltzfus family, they are at the mercy of PennDOT rules.
Of course, while an intersection can be considered hazardous by someone, putting up stop signs at random cannot be allowed. Balancing public safety with a driver's right to travel is always going to be tricky, but relying on the “five accidents first” guideline for stop sign installation in this case is a chilling proposition.
A resolution must be reached before a tragedy occurs.