Will a Signal Light be Safer?

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The parents of a teenager who died in a Lycoming County wreck in 2010 say two deadly crashes and several other serious ones took place outside the only Sheetz store in our region that does not have a traffic signal light, and they want to know why.

Since their son's death, Gail and Bret Grove went to their local government, to Sheetz Corporate and to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to try to convince them a traffic light would make an intersection safer and maybe save lives.

Almost every day, Gale Grove visits her backyard memory garden.

"Dalton was an amazing kid. He loved playing the guitar," Grove remembered when talking about her son.

Dalton Grove died in a car crash just a few miles from her Cogan Station home two years ago.

"It's very, very frustrating that my son was so young and taken so early in his life," said Grove. He was 17.

Dalton was the passenger in a car in a crash at the intersection near the Sheetz convenience store in Linden.

Like other Sheetz stores, it's busy, but Grove claims there is something else different there.

Go to the Sheetz in Clarks Summit in Lackawanna County, and you will see a traffic light.

You will find signal lights outside the Sheetz in Williamsport and Loyalsock Township in Lycoming County.

Signal lights stop traffic at stores in Trucksville and in Plains Township in Luzerne County.

Newswatch 16 checked on all 18 Sheetz in the region and found that outside 17 of them signal lights are in place.

There are no traffic lights outside the Sheetz in Linden, Lycoming County, the very same intersection where Dalton Grove was killed in a crash in 2010.

"I wholeheartedly believe that if there was a traffic light there, my son would be alive today," laments Grove.

Dalton was a passenger in a car struck by a dump truck, December 28, 2010. He died en route to the hospital.

Just two months later, February, 2011, a crash at the same intersection seriously injured a 61-year-old man.

Seven days later, one of the two people in a truck that crashed at that intersection was hospitalized.

Last August, a crash sent four to the hospital. A 69-year-old woman died.

On Route 220 outside the Linden Sheetz, cars travel at the 55 mile per hour limit or faster.

"With that much traffic and that kind of speed, the effects are catastrophic, instead of just a fender-bender," said Dalton Grove's father, Bret.

"Where traffic signals have been installed in other locations, you`ll notice that the crash rate tends to increase," counters Rick Mason, PennDOT Public Information Officer.

PennDOT has plans to make the intersection in Linden safer without signal lights.

Instead of a signal, PennDOT plans to place several traffic islands and turn lanes at the pine run road intersection near the Sheetz.

Cars and trucks no longer will be able to cross four lanes of fast-moving traffic. Right now, they do.

The traffic islands would also prevent vehicles from making left turns to get to the Sheetz.

"If it made sense to put up a signal there, to improve safety, we would certainly pursue that avenue," said Mason, "but traffic signals are not a safety device."

That news leaves Gail Grove disappointed.

She said she will continue to fight to put up a signal light near the area's only Sheetz without one, in her son's memory.

"I just hope that he's found peace," said Grove.

According to the police report, Dalton Grove was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, but his parents believe he would be alive today if there were a traffic signal there.

Newswatch 16 asked for comments from Sheetz about the intersection and the lack of a traffic signal, but representatives did not return our calls.

Meantime, PennDOT is scheduled to begin construction for its safety improvements in June.