NORTH ANDOVER — John Hagerty has a routine every time he inches his car out of his driveway onto Route 114.
"Every time I pull out with my car, I'm a little bit more religious, so I say a little prayer," said Hagerty, 80, of 1874 Turnpike St.
He has reason to be worried. Increased development along North Andover's seven-mile stretch of the mostly two-lane road has caused a steady stream of crashes.
Crashes on Route 114 have kept the North Andover Police Department's Accident Reconstruction Team busy.
Of the seven reconstructions the team did in 2011, five of the accidents were on Route 114. Two of them were fatals.
"There's more traffic on that road," said Det. Daniel Cronin. "There's more people talking on their phones. There's more texting."
But Cronin pointed out that the road itself is not dangerous.
"I don't think it's an unsafe place for people to be," Cronin said. "I think they just need to be more aware."
Sgt. Daniel Crevier, who leads the team, said being more aware means putting cellphones away, curbing dangerous driving, and ending other bad habits. Route 114, which Crevier said gets about 40,000 cars per day, is not forgiving to distracted drivers.
"There's so much traffic out there that you're bound to run into an accident if you're doing that type of stuff," Crevier said.
North Andover police Chief Paul Gallagher started and supervised the team in September 2008 so that North Andover could handle accident investigations more efficiently — rather than relying on county and state teams that have a larger workload. The slower investigations took a toll on victim's families.
"We have to deal with the families," Gallagher said. "The families were getting frustrated, and I had to talk to them or someone else had to talk them."
Crevier, Cronin and Officer Brendan Gallagher have each received more than 400 hours of training in accident reconstruction. The crew can produce reports, design computer models, and keep families updated with progress along the way — something they've had to do in the case of Merrimack College freshman Jize Ma, the Chinese foreign exchange student killed while walking along Route 114.
"All our records will be given to (the family) because this is their child," Officer Gallagher said.
Besides accident reconstructions, the three officers said they've seen their share of bad driving on Route 114: cars hitting speeds of 100 mph, drivers so distracted by their cellphones that they don't bother to look up when cruising through a red light, aggressive drivers weaving in traffic.
"There's no common courtesy anymore when it comes to driving," Crevier said.
Residents and businesses along Route 114 back up the officers' observations.
Hagerty bought his house in 1969, when the road was mainly a rural drive. Back then, Hagerty did not have any trouble leaving his driveway.
But he's noticed cars are driving faster and maneuvering onto the road from his driveway has become more dangerous.
"It's pathetic, and it's getting worse," Hagerty said.
Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2321, at 1049 Turnpike St., said they've noticed a heavy North Andover police presence up and down the road.
Brian Kierce, who has worked for the union at the office for two years, said he sees police at all times of the day.
"It definitely helps slow the people down," Kierce said.
Brian Foley, a Verizon employee who is an IBEW Local 2321 member, said the increased traffic has to do with a change in culture.
"People drive too fast everywhere you go," Foley said. "No matter what city or town you're in, you're in somebody's way."
Wayne Marceau, of 1555 Turnpike St., said it's not unusual for him to have to wait five minutes before getting a turn to pull onto the road.
He said he can hear cars screeching to a halt to avoid crashes from inside his home.
"There's been some close calls," Marceau said.
Marceau will move into Route 114's middle turn lane before pulling into his driveway, but said that other drivers will not slow down to allow him to turn.
He said he doesn't believe anything will get the traffic to slow down.
"People are just idiots," Marceau said. "They're just thinking of 'Me, me, me. I got to get some place. I don't care how I get there.'"
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TIPS FOR SAFER DRIVING
The North Andover Police Department's Accident Reconstruction Team offered multiple tips to drivers to stay safe while traveling on Route 114.
1. Pay attention to the speed limit — Route 114's speed limit changes at different points along North Andover's seven-mile stretch.
2. Wear your seatbelt — "We've seen people who have had massive injuries over minor accidents because they weren't wearing their seatbelts," said Det. Daniel Cronin.
3. Pay attention to your surroundings — Officers talked about how distracted driving because of texting or making phone calls can lead to running red lights or other dangerous driving.
4. Be patient — Oftentimes drivers on Route 114 are too aggressive.
MAJOR ACCIDENTS ON ROUTE 114 DURING 2011
The North Andover Police Department's Accident Reconstruction Team has been called to action for seven major accidents in 2011. Five of them happened on Route 114. Here's the details:
March 21 — Raymond Leclerc, 47, of Manchester, N.H., died in a collision with an electrical supply delivery truck on Route 114 near Merrimack College and Royal Crest apartments. The truck burst into flames after the collision, which also included a third vehicle.
July 1 — Michael C. Lightbrown, 21, of Andover was driving at a high rate of speed on Route 114 when he lost control of his 2000 Ford Explorer, which rolled multiple times and stopped at the corner of Willow Road and Route 114.
Oct. 30 — Jize Ma, 18, a Merrimack College freshman, was walking eastbound on Route 114 with a roommate when he was hit and killed by a vehicle. The crash occurred just before Jasmine Plaza at 733 Turnpike St. He was airlifted to Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Nov. 22 — Diane Kakis, who is in her early 60s, was airlifted to a Boston hospital following a two-car crash on Route 114 near Hillside Road and Route 114.
Dec. 15 — Two drivers suffered life-threatening injuries in a near head-on collision at the entrance of TSD at 1620 Turnpike. Sean Foley, 37, of 6 Varnum St., Haverhill and Timothy Vanwey, 62, of 30 Ocean Ave., Salem, Mass., were both flown by medical helicopter to Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
ROUTE 114 TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS SINCE 2005
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation compiled crash records for the town of North Andover through 2009. Numbers for 2010 and 2011 come from the North Andover Police Department's daily incident log.
AccidentHit and RunNot ReportedAccident with injuryFatal