HUTSONVILLE, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — “That intersection had other issues from time to time; there had been several accidents there.”
In 2006, the town of Hutsonville, Illinois was devastated by the death of Hutsonville High School student in a wreck at the intersection of Route 1 and Hutsonville Road.
“A couple of our students were leaving from one event at our high school to travel to another event at a nearby school,” Roger Eddy, who was Superintendent of Hutsonville Schools at the time, said. “They came to that intersection and an obstructed view caused the driver to pull out, not seeing a semi, a coal truck that was coming through that intersection and had broadsided the car. Our two students, one was seriously injured and unfortunately the other succumbed to her injuries and passed away.”
That student, Ciara Frost, and her death became the focus of a community movement to get additional safety features at the intersection.
“The community organized and rallied behind the young lady’s mother, Regenna Frost, who decided that something had to be done,” Eddy recalled. “She wasn’t gonna just, you know, sit still after this tragedy, and she began to organize community members. They did a petition drive. We talked about how we might be able to petition the Department of Transportation for changes at that corner.”
Eddy was also a state representative at the time and spoke to WTWO-TV about the changes he wanted to see at the intersection.
“There’s been a number of horrible accidents, fatalities, at that intersection. It is absolutely a dangerous intersection, and slowing people down is important and I think that’s gonna help, but unless you eliminate that blind spot you’re gonna have accidents at slower speeds by people pulling out in front of vehicles they don’t see still–we need to eliminate that blind spot for this to be truly effective.”Roger Eddy said in an interview with WTWO-TV after the Frost wreck
Eddy said the Illinois Department of Transportation got involved right away.
“Fortunately, in this case, a guy named Milton Sees was the Director of Transportation there,” Eddy said. “I called him, he listened, we had a community event in Hutsonville where he brought a plan forward to change the intersection so that there would no longer be a blind spot. They offset the lane, the right hand turn lane, so that when someone was turning right, instead of being right next to the vehicle and hiding a vehicle, that there was a space in between it.
Eddy said since these changes were made, there have not been any fatal wrecks at the intersection.
This situation in Hutsonville draws some parallels to the current situation in Vermillion County, Indiana, where the community is calling for changes at the State Road 63/ State Road 234 intersection where several people have died over the years.
The Indiana Department of Transportation has already introduced plans for added safety features and installed dual LED-flashing stop signs on SR 234 earlier this month. INDOT also installed dual LED-flashing intersection warning signs on SR 63 earlier this month, and has plans to lower the speed limit from 55 mph by the end of the year.
INDOT representatives said public input is important when making changes to Indiana roadways.
“Anytime the community has a concern, we want them to feel like they can come to us with it,” INDOT Crawfordsville District Public Relations Director Megan DeLucenay said. “When anything like any fatality, any accident, it’s tragic, it’s emotional, and we don’t like to see it. We know you guys don’t like to see it, and we want to do whatever we can to prevent that from happening the next time.”
Eddy said the Hutsonville community’s involvement in the demand for changes to Route 1 was critical nearly 15 years ago, and he encouraged the Vermillion County community to continue its efforts.
“Refuse to let this go,” Eddy said. “There are moments that you can truly make a difference and use a tragedy for, you know, a better outcome for the future. Departments of bureaucracies will get involved at some point or another when the numbers are high enough, but when the citizens get involved, it, the action is much more quick than it would’ve been otherwise; probably save lives.”
INDOT is also conducting a traffic volume study this month and another in September at the SR 63/SR 234 intersection to determine options for further changes.