At 12:38 p.m. last Sunday, Brenda Woods of Sandy Spring turned her car left from the southbound lane of Rte. 355 into Perry Parkway, which leads toward the recently opened Forest Mall in Gaithersburg. She was struck broadside by a 1975 Mercury.
Almost exactly one hour later. Adele Dodge of Gaithersburg was making the same left hand turn and was hit in almost exactly the same fashion.
There have been seven such accidents since Nov. 1, and police say the intersection is fast becoming one of the most dangerous in Montgomery County.
The accident rate has caused an outcry among citizens and has even prompted county police to complain to the Maryland State Highway Administration about problems at this intersection and with the general road constuction along Rte. 355 between Mannakee Street Rockville and Christopher Avenue in Gaithersburg.
It is along that stretch that Rte. 355, also called Frederick Avenue, is being widened to six lanes to meet the expanded traffic flow in one of Montgomery Counnty's fastest growing sections.
One problem with the construction says Sgt. James J. O'Connell of the county police station in Rockville, is that a temporary cement island, constructed to separate the traffic going in opposite directions may be obstructing the vision of those making a left turn.
"Maybe because of that island, people get a false sense of security," O'Connell said.
Usually, there are trucks or construction equipment - as well as metal barracades - sitting in the lanes under construction and these may also obstruct a driver's vision, said Sgt. Norman Queen, who said he contacted the highway adminstration about the situation on perry Parkway.
Queen said the danger is less for northbound traffic on 35, since there is a left turn signal for drivers turning west. But there is no left turn signal for the southbound drivers trying to turn east into Perry Parkway and Lake Forest Mall.
To observe the traffic in the intersection for a period of time is to witness several near-mishaps as the northbound cars slow down to narrowly miss hitting the turning car.
Under the law cars traveling straight through an intersection rather than those making turns, have the right of way, Queen said.
"It's a question of congestion due to construction and people not using the proper caution . . . The greatest problem is the driver. [People] know this area is under construction. That fact to me, would mandate more caution," Queen said.
Police are often called to the construction area. Queen said, to bring traffic to a standstill while the construction contractors wait for recently laid asphalt to cool off.
"That's when you get one hellacious backup and people are livid," Queen said.
William Shook, district engineer for the highway administration, said he personally has received no word of complaints from the police. He said police may have called someone from his staff.
"The sad part is that people don't know how dangerous the intersection is," said Joy Knox, who says she's witnessed several of the accidents on Perry Parkway because she can see the intersection from her desk in the Standard Federal Savings office building just across the street.
She said she has spoken to police and the fire department about the dangers at the intersection.
"In one of the accidents it was a teenaged girl driving and I've got a teen-aged daughter who drives . . . You think of these things when you have teen-agers," she said.