Collision on Old Wilmington Road rekindles resident's fight against speeding

A recent traffic accident has sparked an Old Wilmington Road resident’s desire to prevent another accident – one with fatal consequences.

Last July, a car traveling with three teens was struck in the driver’s side as they pulled out from Sharpless Road onto Old Wilmington Road.

For retired audio engineer John Krepol, the July collision was just the latest in a long line of what he called “increased traffic-related accidents” and other incidents that he fears will end in death.

“It happened right there, right in front of my house,” Krepol said, pointing at the intersection where Sharpless meets Old Wilmington. “And it could have been much worse.”

He also said he is not alone in his concerns, having approached his neighbors about the situation on numerous occasions.

Standing on Krepol’s lawn roughly 200 yards from the intersection of Yorklyn Road and Old Wilmington during rush hour, cars stream steadily over the crest of a hill with limited sight lines, headed northbound.

The posted speed limit on Old Wilmington Road is 25 mph from Yorklyn to Mitchell Road, where it becomes 40 mph.

Are apps making problem worse?

Krepol, who has lived on Old Wilmington Road for over a decade, believes the increased traffic is the result of websites or smart phone apps like Google Maps and Waze that suggest Old Wilmington Road as an alternate route to Lancaster Pike (Route 48).

“It cuts through all that traffic along 41,” Krepol said. “It takes you out just past where 41 and 48 meet, so you miss all that congestion.”

Selecting the “avoid highways” option on Google Maps does highlight a portion of Old Wilmington Road, if your destination is Wilmington by way of Hockessin.

Master Cpl. Heather Carter, of the New Castle County Police public information division, said that while the department is aware of apps like Waze, their effect on local traffic is unknown.

“It would be hard to say and know if an impact has been made because of the apps without doing some sort of survey or study,” Carter said.

Carter also said that is it not illegal to share information publically when an officer is conducting “speed enforcement.”

Newark resident Susan Bodan said that while she doesn’t commute through Hockessin, she does routinely use travel apps to help navigate traffic situations.

She also said she only uses it for traffic, and not police location reports.

“I mostly trust it to tell me about congestion before I get to it. And when I'm not using the app, and hit traffic, I'll pull it up if I'm stopped to see if there are any alternate routes,” she said. “Waze prefers to keep you on roads I'd consider more of a ‘main’ road. They're usually a higher speed limit, less stop signs and speed bumps.”

Police issuing citations

New Castle County public information officer Sgt. J.P. Piser said that between 2016 and now, officers have written 67 citations for speeding on Old Wilmington Road, not including warnings.

“The problem is … this is just tickets written on Old Wilmington Road,” he said. “If they’re running radar on Old Wilmington, and the driver turns onto Sharpless for the stop, in our system, it’s Sharpless that gets the ‘credit.’ My guess is there were more. But in our system, it’s a hard and fast 67.”

He also said there were 17 reported crashes within the same time period involving Old Wilmington Road or related intersections.

Piser said that on average, county police conduct speed enforcement patrols on Old Wilmington Road twice monthly.

New signs

In a series of emails dating back seven years, Krepol shows how his dogged persistence eventually had the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) out to assess the roadway for either a change to or the addition of new speeding signs.

Although Krepol started the signage ball rolling with ongoing pressure, the idea seems to have been dropped in early 2011, shortly before reapportioning moved former State Rep. Nick Manolakos further down state, and divided much of Hockessin between State Reps. Deborah Hudson and Joe Miro.

Deldot conducted a signage review in August 2010, the emails reveal, with the final result being the addition of another 25 mph sign past the bend where Krepol lives – a sign he said would do little to deter speeders leaving Yorklyn Road, where the speed limit is 50 mph.  

Following an email to New Castle County Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick, NCCPD Community Services Unit Commander Sgt. Wes Reynolds acknowledged the speeding concerns on Old Wilmington, and would contact Sgt. Fritz Feldman from the Traffic Services Unit.

“The TSU officers will respond to the area to assess and determine the best course of action to help alleviate the traffic issues,” Reynolds said.

According to DelDOT Traffic Studies Manager Peter Haag, an October 2013 traffic study revealed a need for an “updated speed restriction resolution to help clarify the 25, 35, and 40 mph speed zones.”

A September 2016 email from DelDOT planning technician Christopher Mcnelis to Old Wilmington Road resident John Campanelli suggested the addition of a “radar sign” that flashes the driver’s speed limit.

A similar sign was recently installed near the intersection of Valley Road and Athletic Way.

While the sign issue remains in limbo, Krepol hopes the recent attention will help bring the issue to the forefront before the worst happens.

“I am an engineer. We try to identify and fix problems before they arise,” he said.