Decatur police on Wednesday released more details about a fatal wreck on a stretch of Point Mallard Parkway that the state has recommended have a lower speed limit, a recommendation the City Council last year rejected.
The accident took place Tuesday at 7:14 a.m. on Alabama 67, just west of Refuge Headquarters Road.
According to police, 33-year-old Jonna McGuyre lost control of her Chevy Tahoe and hit two pickup trucks and an SUV before colliding head-on in the northbound lane with a Nissan Versa driven by 30-year-old Ramsey Williams.
Morgan County Coroner Jeff Chunn declared Williams, of Somerville, dead at the scene.
Two children, ages 1 and 4, were in McGuyre's vehicle at the time of the wreck.
McGuyre and the two children were transported by ambulance to Huntsville Hospital and all three were in stable condition Wednesday afternoon, according to police.
The injuries to occupants of the other three vehicles were minor, police said.
The busy corridor has been the focus of debate before, most recently last year after the Alabama Department of Transportation conducted a speed test.
"We were looking into the speed limits in that area at the city’s request," ALDOT spokesman Seth Burkett said Wednesday.
Based on the study, ALDOT recommended the city reduce the speed limit between Sixth Avenue and Interstate 65 to 45 mph. This would have reduced the speed limit between Country Club Road and the Publix-anchored Point Mallard Centre from 55 to 45 mph.
City officials opposed the move, although police Chief Nate Allen suggested dropping the speed limit between Country Club Road and Indian Hills Road to 50 mph.
The City Council took no action on ALDOT's recommendation.
"We generally will not lower a speed limit within city limits unless the city is in agreement and passes an ordinance reflecting the new speed limit," Burkett said Wednesday. "Whether changing the speed limit would actually reduce speeds would depend largely on enforcement by the city."
Mayor Tab Bowling remained opposed Tuesday night to a reduction in the speed limit, but said other steps could improve safety on the road that in 2017 was traveled by 28,090 vehicles per day, according to ALDOT data.
He said he visited Tuesday evening with firefighters who work that stretch of Point Mallard Parkway.
"They believe a cable system, where possible, and speed enforcement is best," Bowling said in an email, noting that he had few specifics on the cause of Tuesday morning's accident. "I am not a traffic engineer. I have confidence that ALDOT will determine methods for creating a protective barrier, for example a cable barrier, where possible. It is a challenging area to manage."
Creating a barrier along the center of the highway was one option discussed by ALDOT in 2015, after another fatal accident, although the focus was on solid barriers.
“Putting in a concrete barrier is not always a safe option in all situations,” Burkett said in October 2015. “Typically to add concrete barriers, you have a requirement of about 2 feet between it and the lane. The width of the roadway would need to be considered.”
Widening the road could be a problem in that area of the parkway because it is in a federal wildlife refuge, he said then. He repeated the concern Tuesday afternoon: "In this area, we have limited right of way and limited options as far as physical safety improvements."
And while a barrier might prevent some wrecks, it could cause others, Burkett said in 2015.
“If traffic started to veer toward the barrier, it could bounce back into traffic going the same direction,” he said. “If it veered into the oncoming traffic lane without the barriers, there might not be anything coming.”
The fatal October 2015 accident that triggered discussions between ALDOT and the City Council also eventually led to ALDOT conducting a crash-history review of accidents from 2012 to 2016. ALDOT "did not find a trend of crossover crashes," Burkett said Tuesday afternoon.
A contributing factor in the 2015 wreck was a driver operating her vehicle under the influence of drugs, state troopers said at the time. A contributing factor in a fatal crossover accident in February 2018 was alcohol, troopers concluded. Troopers determined a contributing factor in a fatal crossover accident in September 2018 was excessive speed.