Base Officials Warn of Danger at Main Gate

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. David Speicher
  • 175th Wing Public Affairs
Fact: Every month, on average, there is a serious accident at the main gate.

Fact: Many of these accidents result in injuries.

Fact: Most of these accidents were preventable.

According to the 175th Wing Safety Office, there have been 81 traffic accidents at Warfield Air National Guard Base's main entrance over the past five years. That works out to more than one vehicle collision a month at the intersection of Maryland Route 43 and Eastern Boulevard.

In 25 percent of those accidents, victims were transported to a medical facility for treatment.

"I've worked the gate for seven years and I've seen many accidents, most of which are preventable if people stop and look both ways to make sure traffic is stopped," said Staff Sgt. Steven Adornato, a 175th Security Forces Squadron patrolman.

As a full-time employee, Sergeant Adornato observes the traffic on Eastern Boulevard during many of his shifts.

"When people are traveling east on Eastern Boulevard around the curve, some fail to see the red light and have impacted base members entering and exiting the base," he said.

Sergeant Adornato cited a recent example: On April 8 around 11:30 p.m., a car traveling west bound on Eastern Boulevard ran the red light and struct a vehicle entering the intersection from Route 43. "Fortunately no one was hurt," Sergeant Adornato said. "However traffic was backed up for over an hour. This is a prime example of where waiting an extra second when your light turns green could save you the hassle of an accident and ultimately your life."

Lt. Col. Nashid Salahuddin, 175th Wing inspector general, is someone who has learned that lesson firsthand. Colonel Salahuddin said he was "shocked" when a van crashed into him while leaving the base for lunch during the November 2008 drill.

"I felt that day I was pretty careful as to looking both ways. After I got the green light [and proceeded into the intersection], I looked to my left and the van was right there and there was nothing I could do," said Colonel Salahuddin.

It was over in a split second. A van traveling eastbound on Eastern Avenue ran through a red light and struck his vehicle on the driver's side, knocking him unconscious for about three to five minutes.

"I did not feel the impact. I saw the vehicle, I knew I was going to get hit. But I didn't feel the impact at all," said Colonel Salahuddin. "The next moment I know I was in the ambulance and I wake up and I did not know what just happened."

Colonel Salahuddin was fortunate. Although the rental car he was driving was totaled, he escaped with only minor bruising and neck strain.

"When I leave that gate now, every time I think about that accident," he said while describing the collision. "I consciously try not to be the first in line when I leave the base."

"Another major problem is in the morning during peak traffic, base members enter the intersection trying to beat the red light," said Sergeant Adornato. "When they do this they often end up stopped in the middle of the intersection due to traffic backing up at the gate. This is not only a traffic hazard but it is also against Maryland traffic law to enter an intersection without being sure you can make it all the way across."

"Security Forces do their best to get everyone on the base as quickly as possible," said Sergeant Adonato. " However, we do need to make sure everyone coming on the base has a right and a need to enter. We want everyone to arrive on base safely and to arrive home safely."

Such accidents can also affect the base's ability to respond to other emergencies.

"If the resources are at the main gate, it could affect our resources' [ability] to respond to another event elsewhere on base," said Senior Master Sgt. Danny Cantrell, 175th Wing safety superintendent.

The 175th Wing has taken a number of steps to help improve safety, according to Master Sgt. Dan Schimming, wing ground safety specialist.

"One of the things we have done is work with the State Highway Administration to try to lengthen the timing between light cycles," said Sergeant Schimming.

The base is also working to open the Lynbrook Road gate. "It will be safer because it will not be a major intersection," he said.

In addition, the safety office informs members during the newcomers briefing, supervisor's briefings and reinforces this message with base wide e-mails: "When you get a green light on the base, before you pull out, make sure you look left and right. Make sure the traffic is stopped. We recommend you count to three before you go," said Sergeant Schimming.

Colonel Salahuddin, who was first in line to get off base on the day he was struck, couldn't agree more.

"The more you hear it, the more it is reinforced. In some ways, they can't preach it enough," he said.