City to discuss aggressive driving after Utica Road crash

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 19, 2017


STERLING HEIGHTS — A public commenter’s question over a recent fatal traffic accident led officials at a July 5 Sterling Heights City Council meeting to discuss what the city could do to address aggressive driving.

Resident Dennis White asked whether the city has a plan to solve the problem so that drivers don’t have to “feel like they’re going to be run over by people driving aggressively when they’re trying on a daily basis to go from point A to point B.”

He addressed a recent fatal accident on Utica Road.

“I heard that a police captain stated that it was a problem with an aggressive driver, and that two children had to be transported to Children’s Hospital,” White said.

During the afternoon of June 21, a head-on crash took place on Utica Road, near Forester Street, west of Hayes Road. A northbound car reportedly tried to use a gravel shoulder to pass a vehicle at an area where the road narrows from two lanes to one, but the car then lost control and hit a minivan driving southbound.

The collision led to five people being hospitalized — one driver died, two critically injured 14-year-old girls were taken to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, and two occupants in the other vehicle were hospitalized for injuries that police described as not life-threatening. Police blamed aggressive driving and speed for the incident.

In response, City Manager Mark Vanderpool alluded to a recent police effort that Sterling Heights has joined. The police initiative, called Operation Ghostrider, has had undercover participants scout out drivers texting while driving along M-59 and then alert officers.

“We also have an accident prevention unit that’s out on the road every day looking for aggressive drivers,” Vanderpool said. “And we write a lot of citations — thousands of citations — for aggressive driving every year, and distracted driving and the like, and speeding and so on.

“So we do the best we can. However, we simply can’t catch everyone.”

Councilwoman Maria Schmidt wanted to know whether the city could do more to address the issues with that relevant part of Utica Road, which runs from around Hayes to Van Dyke Avenue. She would like to see paved bypass lanes and asked whether it’s possible to “rally the troops and call the county back” to move forward on a solution.

“Utica Road is a county road, so we have no jurisdiction over putting in those bypass lanes, which would have probably prevented the fatality not too long ago if that was paved,” Schmidt said.

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