‘This is a death trap’: More enforcement promised on Indian Head Highway

OXON HILL, Md. — There are still no charges for the person suspected of driving under the influence and speeding on Indian Head Highway in Oxon Hill, Maryland, causing a crash that killed three children late last year.

A Falls Church, Virginia, family was driving home from a worship service on Dec. 30 when a pickup truck slammed into the back of their car. Five-year-old twins Alexander and Rosalie Mejia and their 1-year-old brother Isaac Mejia were killed. Their parents were injured and are still recovering.

“You will see the individual responsible for this held accountable,” Prince George’s County police Chief Hank Stawinski said at a Friday press conference.

“But, our investigators and the state’s attorney’s office will be completely confident that that is a case where we will not make a misstep. We will hold the person accountable, and we will do our level best to bring some peace of mind and justice to this family,” Stawinski said.

State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy and her team “have been working diligently, daily” since the crash happened, Stawinski added. He expects them to be able to make an announcement about the case soon.

Under Maryland law, Stawinski said the pickup truck driver’s license has been suspended, and he is only allowed to drive to and from work while the investigation continues and toxicology testing is finished.

Meanwhile, police and lawmakers are promising to do more to make the notorious state road safer.

Although police stepped up enforcement on Indian Head Highway/Route 210 in each of the last three years, the number of accidents has remained about the same. There were 336 accidents in 2016, 329 in 2017, and 354 in 2018.

“We’ve gone from more than 3,600 traffic stops, to 5,600 traffic stops, to (in) 2018, more than 6,400 traffic stops,” Stawinski said.

“And I want you to know that the men and women of the Prince George’s County Police Department issued more than 10,000 citations in those 6,400 traffic stops, made more than 70 arrests and, yet, we still have this level of collision, this level of tragedy,” he added.

Initiatives targeting bad drivers on the highway will continue, and one that uses aircraft is being expanded.

“In 2019, you will see more traffic stops. You will see more citations,” Stawinski said.

“This is a death trap that should not be so,” Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said.

Traffic laws on the roadway will be enforced “like never before,” she added, but every driver needs to do a self-assessment.

“No amount of enforcement will matter unless the community accepts its responsibility as well. We have to change the behavior of motorists who travel on this road,” Alsobrooks said.

A bill introduced by Maryland Del. Kris Valderrama and passed during the last legislative session allowed police to place one speed camera on Indian Head Highway at Old Fort Road.

During the upcoming session in Annapolis, Valderrama plans to introduce legislation calling for more speed cameras on that highway, as well as a roving camera, saying, “So that drivers are not expecting the speed camera in one location.”

Valderrama’s plan would also allow the cameras to point in more than just one direction. The existing camera only points south.

“(Route) 210 is a crisis, and we need help and we need to start at the very top — the governor on down to the local officials — to work as a team to do what we know we can do collectively to change the mindset and the behavior on 210,” said state Sen. Obie Patterson.

“This is a road that has been long neglected … and we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs that have not been made on this road, because this is a state-maintained road,” Alsobrooks said.

She added that Indian Head Highway is once again on the county’s list of transportation priorities that was submitted to the state Friday morning.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2019 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up