Fire Chiefs: Fed Up with Route 4 Deaths, Propose Rumble Strips

UnknownWoodstock Fire Chief L.D. Sutherland, Jr. has contacted Woodstock Early Bird to say he and Hartford Fire Chief Steve Locke are fed up with the number of deaths on Route 4 and after 15 years of continued trauma, both to victims, families, friends and responders, they want to do something to increase safety on this well-travelled, but clearly dangerous Vermont State Highway.

Following the recent death of Patience Hutt in an accident involving a horse trailer near Fool on the Hill and a double fatal near the Fat Hat Factory on Route 4 — all within the past couple of months — the two neighboring Fire Chiefs have been talking about the horrible impact these accidents have on families, responders and the community in general.

Sutherland says he and Locke are going to do everything they can to get the State of Vermont to construct rumble strips on the center line of Rt. 4. This would hopefully assist drivers stay within their lanes. Sutherland says it doesn’t matter whose fault or what causes it, so-called “distracted driving”, “but people do drift”. The drifting simply results in head-on collisions on the windy road that skirts the Ottauquechee River– at a cost to Woodstock and Hartford both financially to the taxpayers and psychologically to their volunteer and professional responders — Ambulance AND fire rescue crews tasked with pulling people, equipment and debris off this main thoroughfare between New Hampshire, Rutland and New York State.

Sutherland says he and Locke spend an inordinate amount of time making sure their fire personnel are safe and are not hurt while fighting fires or helping out at rescue scenes. Safety is in their professional natures. Now, they can’t help but want to extend their desire to prevent deaths on local highways via this rumble strip proposal.

Anyone else with them? The Fire Chiefs need you to contact the Vermont Transportation Agency and your local representatives to put a little pressure on them to help prevent future tragedies on what is “our”  local road.  We have learned that some States have cost benefit analyses of cost to fix roads versus number of deaths on those roads. We got some re-paving, now how about some safety measures? Is it worth ignoring at a cost of one more life?

33 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pat Crocker on May 14, 2013 at 21:02

    Great idea. Add to that warning signs and I mean warnings to pay attention and slow down!


  2. Posted by Joanne Boyle on May 14, 2013 at 21:25

    Ditto what Pat said!


  3. Posted by Andrea Sand on May 14, 2013 at 21:27

    Agree great idea. A friend of mine was injured in a head-on collison by a drunk driver crossing the yellow lines from the opposite lane


  4. Posted by Suzy Hickey on May 14, 2013 at 21:29

    I agree with what the chiefs have said, and realize that some work has been done recently to rt. 4, but there is still a great deal of it between Woodstock and Quechee that is still so rutted out that you feel like you’re driving on an incline. I believe that is the underlying problem. The roadway needs constant maintenance. Prayers and peace to those who have lost family members in these recent tragedies.


  5. Posted by Kit M on May 14, 2013 at 21:55

    I’m so glad, we were just talking about this. It feels as if every time I’m driving that section of RT 4 someone is drifting into the wrong lane. I hope the rumble strips are a good solution, they sure seem to be a good alert over Killington.


  6. Posted by Linda White on May 14, 2013 at 22:03

    What a great idea for Route 4! I drive just 3 miles into Woodstock from Taftsville every day and I can’t tell tell you how many times EACH DAY I am so thankful I have a horn on my steering wheel!!! People are so distracted on the phone mostly! Please stop talking on your phones!!!! This road scares me every day!


  7. Posted by C. Ruso on May 14, 2013 at 22:22

    “pulling people” ????? some people need to think before speaking, others need to think before typing. . . SERIOUSLY!


    • Seriously. We have personally pulled people out of vehicles and off the road at accident scenes. If you can’t deal with the truth of what first responders do then you can’t begin to help prevent and solve the problem. We are lucky we have the volunteers and professionals we do who have to go through these situations time and time again.


  8. Just do it! That is a terrible stretch of road, particularly where there is no shoulder. Perhaps you could provide names & phone#s, or email addresses, for the VTA and legislators.
    Good piece.


  9. Posted by Michael on May 14, 2013 at 22:28

    Rt. 4 has had a number of accidents…and while rumble strips in the center might help, so would keeping the road in tip top condition. I know $$ are tight for the state, but lives are more precious. Rt. 4 has some ruts (overweight trucks probably don’t help and there may be some subsurface deterioration as a long term effect of Irene) that may cause drivers to veer slightly…and there is little room for error. More frequent line and edge painting might also help.


  10. Posted by Chris silva on May 14, 2013 at 22:57

    This road has been an issue for a very long time. Bob Barton former president of the Woodstock foundation and who was Chet williamsons predecessor at the Woodstock inn, was killed in an accident at almost the exact spot where patience hutt was killed.

    And waterman hill, something has to be done there too…

    Great post, I hope this generates some action!!


  11. Posted by Steven Thomas on May 14, 2013 at 22:57

    I’m all for rumble strips–ANYTHING to keep drivers on their own side.
    But one can’t just shrug off “distracted” drivers. We just took a trip to the Cape and back and there 3 or 4 times that we were nearly hit by cars and they all were texting! It’s like a highway of drunk drivers out there. One wonders when your number will come up. There should be serious consequences for driving while texting or talking on the phone. No $100 fines: loss of license for 3 or more months for first offense. This is every bit as serious as DWI and, sadly, much more prevalent. (There was a recent article in the VN that noted that DD in accidents is grossly unreported).


  12. Posted by Jim Davenport on May 15, 2013 at 06:03

    That section of rte 4 from Woodstock to 89 has been a problem way before distracted drivers. lets get it resurfaced and widened where possible. Until then let’s just lower the speed to 35 or 40 miles per hour. Lets be honest even diving at 45 or 50 you get tailgated by impatient drivers who push you. Slow down and save some lives.


  13. A friend commented to me yesterday that a lower speed limit along the whole length from white river junction to woodstock would be a sensible idea .There will be even more traffic and more exits due to the new businesses along the route. The speed varies along the way and is as high as fifty miles per hour at some stretches. Thirty five miles and hour would be safer .


  14. Excellent idea, get them in ASAP and save some lives. I doubt any of us has driven from Woodstock to WRJ without seeing several cars weaving across the yellow line, usually with cell phone in hand.


  15. Posted by Chris Balcer on May 15, 2013 at 08:39

    The degradation of Rt 4 between Quechee Hartland Rd and I89 is deplorable. Why weren’t the ruts addressed last year during the repaving? Many times I’ve driven behind cars and box trucks who intentially cross the center line to avoid the ruts. Yes, add the rumble strips but repave Rt 4 along this dangerous corridor. As for the cell phone abusers…how do you fix stupid?


  16. Posted by Bob Pear on May 15, 2013 at 08:52

    Alison Clarkson would be a good person to contact about this:
    Alison Clarkson

    The selectboards of both Hartford and Woodstock could also be petitioned by the public to lower the speed limits on RT4. It is within their power to do it.


  17. Posted by Careen on May 15, 2013 at 09:01

    I think that this is a great start. I agree that the same strategy has really helped on rte 4 in the Killington area. As the mother of two young drivers, I have been hyper- aware of the dangerous conditions on that section of rte 4 . It certainly improved when they repaved it but it’s obviously still deadly. Thank you to the folks that are addressing this public health issue …


  18. So many good ideas! let’s all follow up with VTrans and our reps. Rte 4 in the area under discussion is uneven and unsafe; needs serious repaving as there are “grooves” from large trucks that sway other vehicles. Rumble strips will help a lot, but the rest needs attention as well.
    Good job Chief Bliss and others–and Julia fro getting the word out!!!

    Peggy K


  19. Posted by Diana Brown on May 15, 2013 at 09:33

    I have lived in Vermont for over 40 years, off and on since 1958. It is a fact that Vermont roads are not meant for high speed or huge loads. Horrific accidents have happened here since horse and buggy days, because our roads demand us to slow down, be sober and alert, and never take eyes off the road. When I learned to drive as an adult living in urban New Jersey I thought that driving in Vermont when I returned home would be easy. HA! The first 3 times I drove rt 4 from Rutland to White River at night I was so nervous I had to pull over and calm down. Now, the scary moments of near collision from drifters and speeders between here and WR occur almost every trip, day and night.

    Drivers speeding, drivers drinking alcohol and taking drugs, drivers’ fatigue have caused many a fatal accident. The consequences on Route 4 when accidents happen at high speeds are especially deadly. In the 27 years I have lived in Woodstock, I have noticed that friends of mine who are older give up driving from here to Leb first as they become more cautious about driving, and would ask me or other folks to take them there for necessary errands. A few cited the speed limit as unsafe- they thought 35 or 40 should be the limit.

    Reading others’ comments, something has dawned on me. What the above article and remarks have made me realize is that the newest, deadliest factor is talking on cell phones and texting! I think that statistics would reveal a terrible trend directly related to the availability of cell service on RT 4 between here and White River. For years even when we could talk on our phones in the village and at the High School, there was a long Dead Zone once you left Taftsville. Now service is available along almost the entire distance.

    So I agree -lets crack down hard on Distracted Driving of all kinds, lets post dramatically lower speed limits, and fine and punish seriously those convicted.
    Perhaps a new effort would include cell talking pull offs like they have at airports. Just like there used to be picnic pull offs on all the scenic highways when I was a kid in the 50’s. New Hampshire posts the deaths due to Moose Collisions- Could we not declare this section of rt 4 “‘Deadly-due to winding narrow road and DD” .
    And folks- do not call or text your friends or family when you are certain they are driving. We all need to slow down, and pay attention- all the time.
    Again, Julia, thanks for reporting on the Fire Chiefs’ great plan and starting this important conversation.


  20. Posted by Gwen on May 15, 2013 at 10:06

    Driving to WRJ two or three times a week, what bothers me the most is drivers who are up close behind me, flashing their lights to speed me up.


  21. Posted by Kate M. on May 15, 2013 at 10:58

    We live off Rt. 4 with a really tough road to turn on and we would welcome any safety additions such as rumble strips, additional signage and perhaps even a lower speed limit. Please let us know WHO to contact as it has worked for us in the past-additional signage was put on either side of Rt. 4 indicating the turn up onto our road….the more of us that rally for change the better!


  22. Posted by Tom on May 15, 2013 at 12:27

    Having worked in NH for 15 years and driving that road every day as so many others in the area do I do not favor lowering the speed limit. There is nothing anymore anoying than to get behind someone going 35 or 40 looking at the views or whatever. There is no place to pass all the way to 89. Nina’s accident happened in an area where the speed limit was recently lowered from 50. I DO favor the rumble strip proposal. I think that is a great idea and would certainly wake people up who are daydreaming or texting. It certainly wouldn’t be a great expense to the DOT and would definitely help prevent these tragic head on accidents.


    • We agree with Tom…sometimes it can be just as dangerous to the flow of traffic having someone going 25 in a 40 mph zone. More chance for fender benders, frustrated drivers trying to pass unsafely…There is a whole category of dangerous low speed driving due to vision problems, medications, and the touring public and general generic zombificatiion. While we believe speeds should be kept as they are, consistency of road surface and conditions could be improved and/or making the speed limits less changeable between Woodstock and I -89. If that means reducing mph in some locations and increasing in others, it might help.

      In the short term we like the rumble strip idea as it doesn’t place blame and serves as an abrupt reminder to all of the potential for danger. WEB


  23. To comment on the speed issue: a few years ago I wrote to the Woodstock Selectboard concerning the fairly short (one mile? or so) distance that has a speed of 50MPH.
    Vehicles, particularly the big trucks, have a lot of speed limit changes in a short distance out form the 25 MPH in the Village.
    The message back to me was that the Selectboard didn’t want to take it up with VTrans at that time.
    It seems to me it should not be hard to get that section of road lowered to 40 or 45, since most of the rest of the way to WRJ is at that speed limit.

    If the other suggestions are taken up now, I hope this one will be as well.

    How can we all best work as a community to bring these poor road conditions to the state, and get something done? Ideas anyone?


    • Chiefs have contacted Rep. Alison Clarkson and have asked her for suggestions on the best contacts at VTrans with whom our communities might pursue this.

      And then, there is always the Governor!



  24. Posted by Former Local on May 15, 2013 at 15:27

    honestly? woodstock missed the boat ages ago when the Route 4 ByPass was discussed. The ByPass would have eliminated the majority of the trucks and all of the unnecessary traffic. But because of business concerns (from some) this idea was shot down and now too much development has taken place and there is no where to put the ByPass. The road is still a bad road, but less traffic, particulary the large trucks, certainly would help some of the issues.

    Note: This person has identified themselves to WEB. As most know,
    We do not post anonymous comments so legitimate first and last name are requested for the record even if they don’t appear on the blog itself. All comments are moderated. WEB


  25. Posted by Robin on May 15, 2013 at 19:27

    While we’re at it, how about a couple of seasonal speed bumps for High St., Golf Ave, and Cross Street? Having lived on the street for two years with two young children, I am appalled at the how people regularly speed on these three streets, regardless of the fact that these three streets are known by most “locals” to contain many of the village’s children. The reckless , aggressive, and fast driving is particularly bad during leaf-peeper season when the tourists clog the main drag. I guess what’s good for the INN, and local businesses, could be considered potentially deadly for us locals living on the back streets o’Woodstock.


    • Posted by Bob Pear on May 15, 2013 at 21:35

      Robin, I would love to talk to you about the traffic issues in our neighborhood. There are things that can be done, but it takes more than one voice.


      • Posted by Doug Raymond on May 18, 2013 at 23:18

        Perhaps High Street has a retaining wall that needs repairing. It’s doing wonders for River Street.


        • Oh! Great idea! We DO have a failing wall! Is there a grant?

          Because otherwise all those speeding cars using High St to cut off the Green or late for work at the Inn or late to get the kids to the Elementary school are all gonna end up in a big pile on Sudie Watson’s lawn that is if they haven’t hit a child, dog, elderly neighbor or other vehicle first! The road IS failing and the Town/Village has been advised ….

          Oh BTW some folks proudly and defensively say they ARE within the speed limit. Thats not the point. If you are going too fast to stop on a dime for any of the above conditions on a densely populated narrow two way residential street, you’re not driving safely. WEB


  26. Posted by Casey on May 15, 2013 at 22:02

    Thank you Chief Sutherland for this idea along with your dedication and support of the community. Your leadership and hard work is a testament to the strength of woodstock and the citizens that live here. We need more like you.


  27. Posted by N. Kent on May 16, 2013 at 19:15

    Transportation data shows that repaving smaller highways usually INCREASES fatal accidents due to ease of travel and driver overconfidence. This is not to say let the roads fall apart…but unfortunately getting rid of the ruts alone will not solve the problem. Decreasing the speed limit is a must and putting in rumble strips is a good idea. I wonder whether signs advertising high speeding fines and the number of deaths on the road would help?


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