A Bluffton Police official says drivers — if possible — should not make certain left-hand turns where a three-vehicle crash Tuesday killed a pregnant teacher and her unborn child.
“I’m urging all motorists to avoid making a left turn unless you have a green arrow” on the traffic signal when turning from westbound U.S. 278 onto Buck Island Road, department spokeswoman Joy Nelson said Thursday. The turn signal is among many installed in the county since 2014 that display a flashing yellow arrow allowing drivers to turn left at their discretion when oncoming traffic has cleared.
Nelson said Bluffton Police officials plan to discuss potential safety improvements there with Beaufort County and S.C. Department of Transportation engineers.
“We are out at that intersection a lot,” she said.
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Jesse Floyd, 27, of Bluffton, was the passenger in a SUV driven by her husband, Ryan Floyd, that was one of two vehicles to strike a third that stalled while making that turn, according to the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office and the Bluffton Police Department.
Ryan Floyd suffered head lacerations and a broken ankle in the accident that happened around 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, according to the department.
The crossing is one of the most dangerous in Bluffton, Nelson said. There have been eight accidents resulting in injury there since the beginning of 2017, more than any other location in the department’s jurisdiction.
“That intersection is exceptionally wide — wider than most intersections — (and) there’s also a dip,” Nelson said. “... You kind of have to go uphill and across.”
That can create potentially dangerous situations for motorists.
The flashing yellow turn signal could be making matters worse because drivers often pull out into the middle of the crossing and must make a quick turn to avoid oncoming traffic, she said.
“I personally choose to never go through that intersection” when making a left-hand turn onto Buck Island Road, she said.
Nelson recommended to drivers that they use an alternate route or wait until the signal displays a green arrow before making the turn.
“Take the extra five minutes and go the long way around,” she said.
OK to wait for the green arrow if you’re nervous
SCDOT transportation engineer Josh Johnson said Tuesday that nationwide studies have shown that signals with flashing yellow left turn arrows actually make intersections safer as long as drivers are cautious when turning.
“If the arrow is flashing, you must yield to oncoming traffic,” he said. “You should only proceed when you feel safe (to turn) — which isn’t the same for every driver.”
If you’re uncomfortable “creeping into the intersection when the arrow is flashing yellow,” you can wait at the stopping line prior to entering the intersection until the arrow turns green, he said.
The highway, also known as Fording Island Road, is one of the area’s busiest. In 2016, an average of 47,000 daily trips were made along U.S. 278 between S.C. 170 and Bluffton Road, according to S.C. Department of Transportation estimates.
No charges in Tuesday wreck
No charges have been filed in the Tuesday wreck and investigators believe that all involved were wearing seat belts, Nelson said.
Bluffton Police’s Collision Reconstruction Unit is still investigating the accident and a full recreation of the event is planned for Aug. 6, she said.
Jesse Floyd taught at Pritchardville Elementary School and Royal Live Oaks Academy in Jasper County before being hired at Hilton Head Island Elementary for the 2017-18 year to teach second grade.
Beaufort County School Superintendent Jeff Moss released a statement on Wednesday describing Floyd as an exceptional educator.
“She was a terrific young teacher with a bright future,” he said. “This is a great, great loss to her family and friends, and to the school district as well. Our prayers go out to everyone who loved her.”
Reporters Kelly Meyerhofer and Joan McDonough contributed to this story.