A Wilton Dial-a-Ride van was most likely totaled in a car accident Tuesday morning, June 30, when it was hit by an oncoming car while waiting to make a turn at the intersection of Rte. 7 and School Rd.—and the van’s 83-year-old driver is lucky to be alive.
Wilton Police report that shortly after 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the van was in the left-hand turn lane of Rte. 7 facing northbound, waiting to make a left turn onto School Rd., when an Audi A6 traveling southbound on Rte. 7 (in the left lane) veered left and struck the side of the van. According to Capt. John Lynch of the WPD, no injuries were reported but both vehicles suffered “extensive damage,” and the van lost its left rear wheel and axle.
The operator of the 2014 Audi A6 was Albert Koenig, 54, of Wilton. He was issued an infraction for distracted driving and failure to drive right. The driver of the van, 83-year-old Ross Hand, also of Wilton, wasn’t injured and refused medical treatment. Luckily, there were no passengers in the van at the time of the accident, which is still under investigation.
According to Steve Pierce, director of Wilton’s Parks & Recreation Department (which oversees the Dial-a-Ride program), Hand wants to get back to his job tomorrow. The van, however, didn’t fare well. “I’m not an insurance adjuster, but I would say that it’s probably totaled,” Pierce said.
Anecdotally, where Rte. 7 meets School Rd. is said to be a scary intersection, especially for those waiting to make a left turn from Rte. 7 onto School Rd.. Pierce said he too has felt like he’s in danger of being hit when he’s waited to make that same turn Hand was waiting to make.
“That corner, I drive that every single day. You watch the cars coming down south and it kind of bends right there? You just hope everyone is paying attention. I spoke to [first selectman] Bill Brennan, and he’s been trying to get the state to change that intersection for a while now. He’s adamant that he’s going to do whatever he can to get the state to straighten that out,” Pierce explained.
According to Lynch, the CT Department of Transportation—which has oversight of Rte. 7—is aware that the intersection is problematic. He confirmed that Wilton town officials, including the first selectman, have reached out to CT-DOT to complain about how dangerous the intersection is.
“They put in hash marks—little white lines. Mr. Brennan had some concerns about the intersection, because of the speed of the cars and the way it curves, so [the state] put those hash marks to help people stay in their lanes,” Lynch explained. “It’s one more added marking to help steer you in the right direction.”
But is the state’s response enough or is it just a seemingly minimal cosmetic paint adjustment?
“I know [Brennan] was upset [about the accident] because they tried with the state and all they did was put those lines there,” Pierce said. “Fortunately there were no passengers in the van. But as Bill mentioned, school buses go there. Parents turn there with kids. It’s a busy intersection and people fly down that road. I was slowing down to make a left this morning and someone flew past me and the speedometer posted there registered 58 mph. That’s insane.”
He added that thankfully no one was in the right northbound lane next to the van at the time of the accident, as the force of the impact from the Audi would have pushed the van into any car that could have been on the van’s right side. As it was, Hand tried to steer the van to the right at the last moment, when he saw that the Audi was headed toward him directly head on. That split-second maneuver likely prevented the accident from being much, much worse, said Pierce.
“That’s why Ross [and the van] got hit behind him Otherwise he would have been hit head on,” he said, adding, “It’s not a fun intersection to drive, without a doubt.”
Thankfully, said Pierce, it wasn’t a much worse scenario.
“We were very fortunate that Ross was ok, and the driver of the other vehicle was okay. We’ll replace the van, it will take a while, but we’ll use back-up vans that we have, and we’ll make do.”
The view from the northbound left-turn lane:
The view from School Rd. looking at the intersection: