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The road ahead: Accident-prone thoroughfare has residents on edge

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

BUFORD -- It's a hilly, twisty road in a county chock-full of hilly, twisty roads.

But this double S-shaped stretch of South Bogan Road between Buford Drive and its namesake park hearkens the Monaco Gran Prix. Elevation changes and tight turns demand the attention of its 13,500 daily drivers.

Residents near the road's 35 mph intersection with Quail Creek Drive recount errant cars barreling through wooden fences, screeching accidents in the night, even an emergency vehicle skidding into a ditch.

"One young lady went through three backyard fences, bounced off a basement wall, and landed in my neighbor's front yard on top of the electrical box," said Byron Shells, whose property abuts South Bogan Road. "A week later, before we could get the fence repaired, a truck did the same thing."

Concerns among neighbors came to a boil the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when a car full of Buford teens lost control of a Volvo, hit a drainage culvert and overturned the car, tossing them from the vehicle. Eighteen-year-old Triston Sadler died at the scene, and two others were hospitalized.

Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli said the crash was one of 27 near the intersection since 2006. It marked the first fatality in that time span, records show.

With nearby Harmony Elementary School and numerous subdivisions branching in several directions, "I know there's a lot of traffic that comes down that road," Schiralli said.

For perspective, Schiralli said his police department, the county's largest, worked more than 20,000 vehicle accidents in 2009. Officers fielded 2,123 crashes in October alone, he said.

The fatal crash came after safety improvements were made to South Bogan Road in early 2009. They included the addition of a two-foot paved shoulder, chevron-shaped curve warnings, raised pavements markers, speed advisory signs on either side of the road and a guardrail to protect property near the embattled fence.

Those changes are just the beginning, said Chuck Bailey, director of the county's traffic engineering and planning division.

The Gwinnett DOT, alongside a Citizens Project Selection Committee, has identified South Bogan Road for $1.2 million in SPLOST-funded improvements between Kilgore and Hamilton Mill Roads.

Engineering services for the project will begin sometime this year, Bailey said. The specific scope of the changes has yet to be determined, officials said.

Shells said he feels the curve where the teens lost control needs to be straightened. Otherwise, drivers are prone to over-correcting and pin-balling off the newly installed guardrail, he said.

Other neighbors who contacted the Post feel the road should be widened.

In general, Schiralli said residents should file a traffic complaint with the appropriate police agency as a first step to remedy driving concerns.

Officers should conduct speed enforcement for a number of days to gauge if further action is needed, he said.