Living dangerously: Wrecks plague Mike Padgett residents

Constant wrecks plague Mike Padgett residents

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Reba Goldman turns on her blinker and pumps her brakes about a quarter-mile before turning into her neighborhood off Mike Padgett Highway.

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Eunice Hogland has lived on dangerous Mike Padgett Highway for 38 years. She says a prayer before leaving her driveway.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Eunice Hogland has lived on dangerous Mike Padgett Highway for 38 years. She says a prayer before leaving her driveway.

But even that's not always enough to keep other motorists from zooming up on her bumper. Occasionally, she'll have to punch the gas and speed up, then double back a half-mile away at Goshen Road.

Her neighbors share similar stories.

"I feel like I look more in my rear view mirror than I do forward," said Vickie Herron.

The four-lane highway, Georgia Highway 56, has long been known as dangerous and deadly. It's been 16 years since the highway hasn't recorded a fatal wreck. There have been at least two deaths on Mike Padgett Highway every year since 1996 and seven in 2008.

The highway's first fatal wreck of 2011 happened last week, when three people in one car were killed after the driver pulled out in front of a log truck, police said.

Folks who live on Mike Padgett can remember fatal wrecks stretching back almost 40 years. But the rush of traffic wasn't nearly as dense back then, said Eunice Hogland, who would send her son across the highway to get the mail 38 years ago.

Today, she says a prayer before leaving her driveway, then a word of thanks when she gets home safely. Hogland still worries, though, about her grown children traveling to visit her with the grandchildren.

Like others interviewed, Hogland said the center turn lane that peters out at Old Waynesboro Road should be extended. The problem is that distracted and speeding drivers don't prepare to stop for someone waiting to make a turn from an inside lane, Hogland said.

Kristina Honomichl, a manager at Plant Vogtle, can attest to that.

She's one of the hundreds of commuters who travel Georgia 56 to work at the plant near Waynesboro. Honomichl admits she was distracted when she plowed into the back of a work van and crumpled the hood of her Honda Accord.

"I just lost focus. I wasn't there," she said.

Both Honomichl and the van's driver walked away from the wreck, but it was a stark reminder for Honomichl about the importance of being a vigilant driver. When she read about last week's fatal wreck in The Augusta Chronicle , she created a short safety message that flashed on giant TVs around the plant.

"I thought 'Whoa, we need to bring attention to this,' " Honomichl said.

Besides Plant Vogtle, commuter traffic from Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and International Paper jams the highway at peak hours. Gene Silvery, the president of the union at International Paper, said safety is definitely a concern.

"That's probably the worst highway in Georgia," he said.

Some employees come to work as early as 5:30 a.m. and leave early to avoid the crush of traffic, Silvery said.

Goldman said several houses for sale in her neighborhood have gone into foreclosure, presumably because no one wanted to drive home on Mike Padgett.

Realtor Brenda Everett couldn't speak about Goldman's neighborhood directly, but acknowledged it's tough selling property on Georgia 56.

"There's almost a stigma associated with that corridor now, and we want to overcome that," Everett said.

The Georgia Department of Transportation announced in February it was starting a $21 million project to add a raised median to the highway, along with dedicated turning lanes. The lanes would be placed at the crossroads along a 5-mile stretch of Mike Padgett and will include Brown, Goshen and Country Place roads, along with Doug Barnard Parkway.

Residents are skeptical, saying they've heard promises of improvements for years. They add that improved road conditions won't make a difference if law enforcement doesn't step up its enforcement in the area.

Richmond County sheriff's Capt. Scott Gay said his agency gets the same complaints, but that there is active enforcement of speeders. Mike Padgett is a long road, he said, so it's likely that residents just aren't seeing deputies on patrol.

He also points out that speeding wasn't a contributing factor in recent accidents.

Despite official promises for change and enforcement, Mike Padgett residents are pessimistic after years of witnessing horrific wrecks.

"The deaths are just going to continue," Herron said.

Comments (9) Add comment
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Billyds999
17
Points
Billyds999 04/28/11 - 04:17 am
0
0
"Speeding not a factor"?

"Speeding not a factor"? ...doubtful here. I know that I get passed all the time, and I'm not a slowpoke...
I bet if 56 became known as the road that always has a couple of deputies with radars on it, we'd see those wrecks go down...
As far as a raised median, I don't think its a good idea. I'll have to do a u-turn on 56 (the most dangerous highway?) to get out of my house, and another one if I come from the other way. How safe is that? ...just my opinion.

Pursefreak
0
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Pursefreak 04/28/11 - 05:43 am
0
0
Kimberly-Clark?

Kimberly-Clark?

sassybowsntutus
6
Points
sassybowsntutus 04/28/11 - 07:19 am
0
0
Kimberly Clark is in Beech

Kimberly Clark is in Beech Island!!! Speed may not have contibuted to the recent accident but I agree with Billyds999 if they cracked down on some of the speeding the accidents would go down tremendously! And Crack down on texting and driving, but that would be hard to do since the cops are doing it in their patrol cars too. Hmmm. Maybe we should crack down on them too.

TrukinRanger
1748
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TrukinRanger 04/28/11 - 07:56 am
0
0
Perhaps they need to abandon
Unpublished

Perhaps they need to abandon this raised median bit and add traffic lights that force people to slow down.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 04/28/11 - 08:20 am
0
0
Excellent idea

Excellent idea TrukinRanger!

sassybowsntutus, Kimberly Clark also has a location listed on Forward in Augusta, which is off Tobacco Rd (just off Hwy 56). Not sure if this is an extention complex but it is listed in South Augusta.

SeaSpur
0
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SeaSpur 04/28/11 - 08:45 am
0
0
The inexperienced and

The inexperienced and not-so-good drivers are just as much at fault here as the logging trucks. The loggers do drive like bats out of hell and speed/traffic enforcement can DEFINITELY step up, but other drivers tailgate other cars, switch lanes erratically, and worst of all- they pull out in front of others. They don't seem to realize that these logging trucks just aren't going to stop and slow down like a regular vehicle- they physically just can't.

There just seems to be a slew of bad drivers in this particular area. Whenever both lanes were riding fast and crowded last week, it wasn't enough for one driver- he passed on the right by using a turnoff lane (near RSC Rentals) just to get ahead. This was only a day or so after the bad wreck.

Unfortunately, the bad habits they have formed while driving over the years on other roads just really catches up to them on Mike Padgett and they pay the biggest price of all in the end.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 04/28/11 - 10:00 am
0
0
There's a Kimberly Clark

There's a Kimberly Clark located in South Augusta and Beech Island..

fd1962
26
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fd1962 04/28/11 - 10:38 am
0
0
There's not a better highway
Unpublished

There's not a better highway than this in all of Mexico, for instance, much less Georgia. The County could declare a traffic emergency zone, reduce the speed limit to 45, ruthlessly enforce a zero-tolerance advertised fine, and generate two full-time patrolmen yearly expenses within a month. But waiting another year and a half to spend $21 million on cosmetics makes much more sense.

sml1977
0
Points
sml1977 04/28/11 - 10:56 am
0
0
TrukinRanger - Sorry, but red

TrukinRanger - Sorry, but red lights would be a horrible idea. There are way too many turn offs for red lights to be effective, they would be more of a nuisance. There are houses, Rack & Grill, Day Cares, The Pub, Churches... There would be stop lights every 2 ft. They need a center turn lane all the way down. I drive to and from work every day on 56 and I know what parts of this road that I need to slow down and back off the cars in front of me in anticipation of them turning. More people need to do that to prevent more accidents.

sunshineladybugs
0
Points
sunshineladybugs 04/28/11 - 11:12 am
0
0
traffic lights are a good

traffic lights are a good idea. we need one at the entrance to country place and another at 4H club road. that would SLOW traffic and cause enough breaks in traffic that those that live in the area can get in and out of their driveways safely. my nephew was killed at the entrance to country place because the driver in front of him jammed on the brakes and with NO turn signal stopped to turn into country place. medians, lights, none of it will make a difference if WE as the DRIVERS don't SLOW DOWN, PAY ATTENTION AND USE TURN SIGNALS! we have to take this into our own hands to a degree; the state of Ga ain't gonna do it for us!

onecatfish
5
Points
onecatfish 04/28/11 - 11:15 am
0
0
The road is ok, It is the
Unpublished

The road is ok, It is the people that dont know how to drive. That is the problem.

Sweet son
11632
Points
Sweet son 04/28/11 - 11:27 am
0
0
I might have missed it but no

I might have missed it but no one mentioned cellphones and texting. I have seen the despised log truck drivers talking on cellphones as well as other regular drivers. Add this to the mix!

eagle
94
Points
eagle 04/28/11 - 07:09 pm
0
0
As mentioned before, there
Unpublished

As mentioned before, there isn't anything wrong with the road. It's the drivers on the road that are the problem. Inattention, distracttion, and speeding...that's the problem. Pull out in front of anyone (especially a truck) and you're going to lose. Slow down and pay attention...or park your car.

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