Alcohol, Speeding and a Dangerous Curve Take Lives in Durham

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A new memorial marker went up recently at a curve on N.C. 751 in Durham. The location is no stranger to fatal car crashes: Five people have died there in the past 20 years. In this most recent accident, the passenger was killed. The driver survived and is suspected of driving drunk.

The two university students were heading south when their vehicle left the road and caromed off one tree, striking three more trees before going over the embankment. The SUV landed at the bottom of a gully, on its roof.

Police say the driver was speeding, traveling at 65 mph in the 35 mph zone. In fact, the drivers in each of the crashes at this site were speeding — they were driving impaired, too.

The accident in 1992 killed three men. Traveling south at 85 mph, the car missed the curve and hit a tree that tore its roof off. The 1997 crash killed the 24-year-old driver, who was alone in the car when it skidded sideways and struck a tree at 80 mph. The tree he crashed into is the same tree the driver hit in this most recent accident.

While the victim’s family and friends mourn, authorities are wondering if the road itself has something to do with the fatalities. The sharp curve is just past the spot where N.C. 751 changes from the four-lane Cameron Boulevard into the two-lane Academy Road. There is no change in the speed limit, which, again, is posted at 35 mph.

In all three accidents, the drivers missed the curve and drove into the stand of trees at the corner. And these aren’t saplings: They run about two to three feet in diameter.

Department of Transportation safety personnel say there may be warning signs or other ways to alert drivers to the curve. Police say the road isn’t the problem. Drivers are drinking and speeding, and, he says, we’re all supposed to know not to do that.

The DWI charges against the driver in the latest crash are pending while the drug and alcohol tests are being processed.

Source: Raleigh News & Observer, “Five have died at curve since 1992,” Bruce Siceloff , Oct. 4, 2011