Residents call for change at accident-prone intersection

Published 2:05 pm Thursday, January 6, 2022

VOLINIA TOWNSHIP — Monday afternoon, Volinia Township resident Nicole Tienda Stacks stood outside her home at the corner of Marcellus Highway and Decatur Road as icy winds surrounded her. Just one week earlier, she stood in the same spot as she rushed out to assist passengers involved in a Dec. 26 crash that sent three people to the hospital.

While the victims of the crash were strangers to Tienda-Stacks and her husband, Larry, the scene before them was not, as the couple has witnessed dozens of accidents outside their home. Over the years, they have perfected their response, always having fire extinguishers and 911 at the ready.

“We are like first responders here,” Tienda-Stacks said. “Larry is the first one to call 911, and I’m the first one to see if everyone is OK.”

Now, Tienda-Stacks is leading an effort of area residents to call for additional safety measures at the Decatur Road/Marcellus Highway.

“I’m done seeing accidents,” she said. “The road commission needs to start doing something about it and finding a way to not have so many accidents on this corner.”

According to the Cass County Road Commission, the intersection has averaged two-and-a-half accidents per year at the intersection over the last 10 years. Though Managing Director Robert Thompson said he would not consider the number of accidents at the corner high compared to other intersections in the county, small improvements have been made, including blinking lights and signs indicating that cross-traffic does not stop.

However, Tienda-Stacks and Larry Stacks said the changes have not been enough. Larry said he has seen nearly 80 accidents in the 31 years he has lived in his home at the intersection, three of which have hit his home in the last decade.

In addition to wanting to keep themselves, their home and other drivers safe, the Stacks said there needs to be changes at the intersection due to the impact seeing so many accidents has had on their mental health.

“It’s hard to have to see when somebody gets into an accident,” Tienda-Stacks said. “In the beginning, I used to go into panic mode. Now, it’s got to where I’m used to this. I’m calm. It shouldn’t be that way. It shouldn’t get to the point where you think, ‘Oh, there’s another accident. Here we go again.’ It’s become a routine. There shouldn’t be a routine.”

Currently, Thompson said the intersection complies with all Michigan Department of Transportation regulations. However, the road commission is actively considering adding additional safety measures to the area, such as rumble strips to keep drivers aware.

“According to history, the vast majority of accidents occur after people stop, and then they pull out in front of someone,” Thompson said. “We can’t drive the car for them. We can’t make them not pull out in front of someone, but we can do all the things we can do to make them stop in the first place.”

Tienda-Stacks said she does not plan to stop speaking out about the intersection until changes are made, and plans to attend county and township meetings to make her concerns known.

“I want to be the voice for every family, every person who has been in an accident at this corner,” she said. “We need to slow this traffic down and make it safer. … What is it going to take? Do people have to keep dying on this corner for someone to do something?”

Thompson said he would encourage any Cass County resident to reach out to the road commission with any concerns regarding intersections or county roads, saying the commission is diligent in investigating and addressing concerns.

“We are always looking at the accident reports we receive. We review the details and look at if there is anything we could do to enhance the safety of an intersection,” he said. “We so appreciate the public raising concerns and asking questions.”