FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — New data obtained by 11Alive News show that a dangerous intersection where a teen driver from Forsyth County almost lost her life last week is even more dangerous now than it was three years ago when the state decided against installing a traffic light there.
Victims of the wrecks - the teen and others – were cited for "failure to yield," even though they often have trouble seeing what's coming toward them.
And now the state is doing another traffic study, while the teen and her parents ask: How many more life-threatening accidents will there be at this site before it's safe to drive there?
The intersection, where Bentley Road meets Post Road/State Route 371 in Forsyth County, has been a menace to drivers for years.
It’s where, on August 12, 16-year-old Zoe Ordway was on her way to cross-country track practice at West Forsyth High School when she was T-boned and nearly killed as she tried making a left from Bentley onto Post.
Friday, After 11 days in the hospital, Zoe was hoping she would be released to go home before the end of the day.
"Hey guys, thank you for all the thoughts and prayers and everything, I'm getting better every day,” she said in a video message that her parents sent to 11Alive.
Even as she heals, Zoe and her parents are leading a campaign to make the intersection safer.
"That whole road is horrible,” her father Scott Ordway said.
"It's frustrating, and it's only a matter of time before someone else is hit again," said Zoe's mother, Tricia Ordway.
Zoe, Scott and Tricia Ordway have heard that, soon after Zoe's wreck, the Georgia Department of Transportation agreed to do a new study of all the traffic and the wrecks at the intersection.
A previous GDOT study, done three years ago, found that conditions there did not meet federal standards for a traffic light. But advocates believe such a light would have, if installed then, saved dozens of drivers, including Zoe.
The 2016 study found there were 15 wrecks at the intersection in 36 months, from October, 2013 to October 2016-- an average of one accident about every two-and-a-half months.
What will the new study show?
11Alive obtained the most recent accident reports from the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office. In the past 32 months, from January 1, 2017 through August 12, 2019, there have been 24 more collisions, including Zoe's. That means accidents there are now more frequent – an accident every month to a month-and-a-half, on average.
"Those are 24 lives that are affected, those are 24 people,” Scott Ordway said. “Those aren't just numbers, they're people, they're people that end up here at the hospital. Even one of Zoe's nurses in the ICU when she first got here was a victim of that intersection. What does it take?"
The intersection is getting more dangerous. More and more development along Post Road has increased traffic some 15 percent in the past decade - thousands of more vehicles per day
The county four-laned its portion of Post Road, but the road squeezes into two lanes where it becomes a state road.
The inclines, lines of sight, lane markings and rolling terrain, along with the increasing traffic, all add to the difficulties drivers have getting in and out of the intersection alive.
At one point, the state offered to block part of the intersection so drivers on Bentley Road would only be able to make a right turn onto Post Road.
"If they believe you shouldn't make a left turn, it tells you they believe that left-turn lane is dangerous,” said County Commissioner Todd Levent.
Levent said that over the years, he's told the Department of Transportation the county would pay for a traffic light. But the state, citing that previous study, continued to say no because conditions do not meet federal requirements for a light.
"There'd be a traffic light there by now if it was our decision as a county,” Levent said. “It's not. Even if we paid for it, we're not allowed to install it."
State Sen. Greg Dolezal of Forsyth County has been fighting for safety improvements and four-laning for years. He hopes the new state study of this intersection will be completed by October.
"The big thing is, we'll have some recommended solutions from the traffic engineers of what we can to do provide some immediate relief,” Dolezal said. “And then the goal for us is to provide the long-term solution, which is a widening of the road, from Highway 9 all the way to Highway 20."
Zoe's neighbors and classmates have started petitions demanding immediate safety improvements. Thousands of people have signed them.
No one from the state Department of Transportation was available for an on-camera interview.
Zoe, facing weeks of rehab at home, is determined to lead the fight for others, now.
"I really wish it wouldn't have happened,” she said in her video message to 11Alive. “But at least if we can get some change in the intersection, so that no one has to go through what me and my family are going through, right now, I think that would be really good."