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Spend Billions on Road Safety or Quit Making 10-Cent Decisions Now?

Route 210 Traffic Safety Committee Chair Rev. Dr. Robert Screen addresses the media at a 2022 briefing to call more attention to the “Highway of Death,” in Prince George’s County. Rev. Screen, a SafeRoadsMD board member, and the Committee work closely with Del. Kris Valderrama to support legislation to increase speed camera fines along Indian Head Highway.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to uproot, a time to kill, and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.” 

On October 8th in the year of our Lord 2022, the Route 210 Traffic Safety Committee celebrated and commemorated the completion of the MD Route 210, Kerby Hill - Livingston Road overpass in Oxon Hill with a long-awaiting community.

Construction of this overpass began in 2016, and finished in 2022 at a final cost of $130 million.

As we enjoy the gentle, positive air at this morning’s ribbon cutting, powerful, negatively-charged winds of a national traffic safety crisis blow relentlessly throughout the US and, without question, across our Indian Head Highway or Route 210 community.

In my introduction, I quoted scripture from the 3,000 years-old Book of Ecclesiastes that speaks of the human nature that governs mankind. I intentionally closed with the verse, “A time to tear down, and a time to build.”

I submit to you it’s time to tear down violent roadway behavior patterns that have plagued our Route 210 community for too long, causing more than 80 fatalities in the last 15 years. Time to tear down the egregious speeding vehicles recorded at 168mph, 162mph and 155mph on three Route 210 speed cameras.

I say it’s time to tear down the kind of national and local Maryland driving behavior that led to the death of three children - five- year old twins and a one-year old - just yards from this very location on December 30, 2018.

Some people see things the way they are and say “why.” But starting today, more people need to dream things that never were; and say, “Why not?”

•          Why not after the commemoration of this completed overpass, build an accountable traffic system that removes egregious speeders from our roadways?

•          Why not remove DUI drivers from roadways so they no longer threaten the public?

•          Why not more effectively deter reckless driving that leads to fatalities?

•          Why not increase the sanctions for those who persist in roadway violence?

Many communities across our country pour millions of dollars into improved roadway infrastructure improvements such as here in Oxon Hill today.

But it is the “10-cent” driving decision and behavior that produces zero-sum traffic outcomes in many of these locations, where traffic accidents and fatality rates actually increased despite millions of dollars in improvements.

A driver’s 10-cent decision-making produces egregious speeding, DUIs, distracted driving and more. It’s not just what we spend on brick and mortar roadway infrastructure. What do we invest in building responsible, accountable drivers everywhere?

Why not let this overpass commemoration transform Indian Head Highway’s well-deserved reputation from the “Highway of Death” to a “Highway of Vibrant Life,” where safety, civility and courtesy thrive as emblems of our community? Where a responsible, seasoned driver teaches the young about safe and cordial rules of the road? Where our community suffers no more disgrace in its driving character throughout Maryland!

We can, I believe, tear down the bad habit for the good. If our collective society truly desires change, each of us must be that change. And, why not?

We will never value our present until first we honor our past. Only then we will we learn to cherish our future.

We honor all those who lived before us to make this day possible. We honor all whose life’s legacy ended on this roadway, now with its new overpass. Why not value this moment to commit to change, that we may cherish the future of our children, who deserve long lives?               

If each of us is willing to invest ourselves in a new and bright beginning, I ask you to repeat after me: “If it is to be, let it begin with me.”

Adapted from the opening remarks of Reverend Dr. Robert L. Screen at the October 8, 2022 ribbon-cutting ceremony. Three days following the ceremony, 56-year old road construction worker Huerta Melendez was killed by motor vehicle that “barreled through traffic cones on Route 210 in Fort Washington.” It was the third MD 210 roadway fatality in four weeks.

Rev. Screen chairs the Route 210 Traffic Safety Committee and serves on the board of directors of the Maryland Coalition for Roadway Safety, Inc.



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