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Whether or not they jibe with strict state criteria, the 36 deaths and numerous injuries over the past decade in accidents along rural roads in North Collins and Eden justify additional traffic controls at the most dangerous intersections along Route 249.

If this carnage hasn't yet risen to the level that state mandates require for additional traffic control at the most dangerous intersections, then those state mandates should be changed.

Plainly, the barrier to necessary improved traffic controls is not the insufficient level of deaths and injuries, but requirements set forth in the State Department of Transportation's manual.

As County Legislator Edward J. Kuwik, D-Lackawanna, told state and county transportation officials who referred to the manual's requirements: "You don't have to be a Rhodes scholar to put up four-way stop signs. The manual is not working. Something else should be done."

What should be done is to add some of those stop signs, caution lights or other controls along Route 249. According to accounts from those using the highway, it has become a speedway for reckless drivers. One person cited a four-mile stretch from Langford to North Collins that "has not one stop sign."

Properly enough, then, County Executive Gorski has joined in the appeal to the state Department of Transportation to install multiway stop signs at intersections of Route 249 and Ketchum and Jennings roads, two sites of recently deadly accidents. Whether these highways are rural or not, the 11 fatalities that have occurred in North Collins in just the past 13 months, including seven in one deadly crash, flash their own red lights.

Whatever the state transportation manual says, common sense demands that those warning lights of deadly experience be heeded.

County officials say the state, not the county, is responsible for controlling traffic at intersections. Albany should not permit general rules to overcome direct experience and common sense -- especially when the public's safety is endangered.

Forget the rules, if necessary, and install the traffic lights and the stop signs. Bloody experience indicates this will save lives.

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