Roughly a quarter past 1 p.m. on Thursday, December 28, Vernon and Rachel Black of Rancho Cucamonga, California, drove northbound past the stop sign at Kershaw Road and pulled their 2013 Toyota Camry in front of Freightliner semitrailer traveling westbound on Oregon 140.
The crash killed 65-year-old Vernon and 59-year-old Rachel. It marked the second fatal crash at the inter-section of Kershaw Road and Oregon 140 in 2017, ending a period of more than a decade without a fatal crash.
“We’ve struggled with this intersection before,” said ODOT District Manager Jerry Marmon. “As we do after any fatal crash, we examined the roadway, the environment, and driver behavior.”
Previous safety improvements at the intersection included dedicated turn lanes and advance flashing beacons in 2006. The result was no fatal crashes over the next decade (2007-2016), however, 34 crashes were reported during that period.
In May 2017, 21-year-old Hunter Hoeptner of Eagle Point died when his 2001 Honda sport bike struck the side of a 2004 Ford pickup crossing the highway northbound. Hoeptner was traveling eastbound, speeding in excess of 100 MPH. OSP cited speed as a contributing factor in the crash. The driver of the pickup was uninjured.
According to Marmon, a driver who misjudges the speed of approaching traffic on Oregon 140, where drivers push their speeds with good sight distance and a flat roadway surface, can wind up in a tragedy. In fact, ODOT traffic engineers reported witnessing several near-misses at the inter-section of Kershaw Road and Oregon 140 during their investigation in early January.
“We saw one driver enter from Kershaw onto the highway right in front of a log truck, nearly causing a head-on collision,” said ODOT Traffic Investigator Bob Sechler. “The log truck had to veer around the car using the oncoming left-turn lane to avoid a crash.
“Our analysis showed that drivers on Kershaw Road were in a hurry, trying to cross Oregon 140. Rather than coming to a complete stop, a high percentage of drivers simply followed the vehicle in front of them without looking for oncoming traffic.”
ODOT traffic engineers presented immediate safety recommendations to Marmon and Jackson County Roads and Parks Manager John Vial, who manages the county-owned Kershaw Road. Safety improvements scheduled for installation include:
• Installing larger signing at the intersection, including new 48-inch stop signs and red flashing beacons above the stop signs;
• Reducing the Oregon 140 speed through the Kershaw intersection to 50 MPH;
• Adding new intersection street lighting, and;
• Adding transverse rumble strips on Kershaw Road.