The Oxbow Incident

Shantel Bailey

I find it fitting that on the same day my car was rear-ended on Middletown’s West Main Road, I happened upon members of the Shantel Bailey Project holding vigil. Just a few hours removed and a short drive from my hit-and-run collision, friends and family of “Telly” Bailey stood across from Oxbow Farms carrying signs in their loved one’s honor at the very spot where she died.

Miss Bailey would be celebrating her 22nd birthday today if not for the reckless driver who struck and killed her on the night of November 19, 2003 as she tried to cross the busy four lane highway. Ever since her death and others like it, the town and state have pledged to improve West Main by adding sidewalks, lights and signs, and amping up law enforcement of traffic violations.

Unfortunately, these remedies do nothing to address the biggest factors that make travel on West Main Road so treacherous:

1) Weak legislation: Although the man behind the wheel in Shantel’s accident was driving way over the speed limit, he was never arrested — because, by RI law, he can’t be arrested for such a charge! In addition to stricter enforcement of traffic laws, we also need stricter legislation to scare drivers straight and slow them down to a manageable speed.

2) Overburdened infrastructure: Extra sidewalks, lights, and signs are all well and good, but using a tiny strip like West Main Road (or the even smaller East Main Road) as a four lane highway simply defies logic, unless one views it from the absolute narrowest economic perspective. Middletown businesses and motorists can live with a slightly longer commute, but, more importantly, so can the pedestrians! The state needs to turn both East and West Main Roads into two lane streets so we can avoid any more tragic deaths in our community… And, ironically enough, so we can avoid wasting money on the never-ending cycle of road reconstruction on routes that are supporting double their physical capacity.

Meanwhile, the spirit of Telly still lives on through the work of The Shantel Bailey Project. Turning loss into hope, the non-profit organization awards a scholarship each year to deserving students in Middletown and Rogers High Schools in Shantel Bailey’s name. Check out their website for more information and to see how you can help.

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