Archive for Thursday, August 3, 2006

Baldwin Junction death prompts call for safer highways

August 3, 2006


Traffic engineers and the Kansas Highway Patrol have said the intersection at Baldwin Junction is safe.

But you won't convince Wendell Pohl of that. His 84-year-old mother died Tuesday after her car was struck by a semitrailer at the intersection of U.S. Highways 59 and 56 south of Lawrence. And there have been others killed at the corner this year.

"I hope they can sleep well at night," Pohl said. "They must not use that intersection very much."

Charlene Pohl, of Baldwin, was killed when a semitrailer traveling north on U.S. 59 struck her Buick sedan, which was pulling away from the westbound stop sign at the U.S. 56 intersection.

The Kansas Highway Patrol said Charlene Pohl did not completely stop at the stop sign before pulling into the intersection and that "driver error" was at fault in the accident.

At the Pohl home in Baldwin, Wendell Pohl spent Wednesday making funeral arrangements for his mother - the service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Worden United Methodist Church in Baldwin - and wondering whether more safety precautions at the intersection would have saved his mother's life.

"We don't know how many it's going to take like this to get it fixed," he said.

Pohl said he doesn't understand why the speed limit along U.S. 59 was increased from 45 to 55 mph. That happened in 1998. And a 2004 study declared the intersection safe - including speed limit, stop signs and other features.

Others have clamored for more safety precautions at the intersection, and state highway officials have promised to make the corner a four-way stop and to add rumble strips on U.S. 59.

Ottawa resident Ricky Roth said he drove Highway 59 every day.

"I did not understand why they ever sped up (the) junction to begin with," Roth wrote to the Journal-World.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has planned for weeks to install stop signs and rumble strips along the north and southbound lanes of U.S. 59 at the intersection.

Steve Swartz, spokesman for KDOT, said that after Pohl's death the department on Wednesday installed an electronic speed indicator along northbound U.S. 59, even though the semitrailer's speed had little to do with the wreck.

"We did that to get people's attention," he said.

Swartz said he wasn't sure how long the speed indicator would be there, but that it wouldn't be permanent.

After a time, he said, the signs lose their effectiveness.

"You don't just set them up and leave them there," Swartz said.

Intersection of U.S. 59-56

The new stop signs for the corner should arrive from the manufacturer, Kansas Correctional Industries, next week.

Installation of those and several "stop ahead" signs should begin shortly thereafter, he said.

Crews will also grind the rumble strips into the roads at the same time, he said.

But Swartz said the 55 mph zone would likely remain as is.

Studies have shown that most cars travel at least that fast on U.S. 59, and lowering the speed limit could create more problems than solutions to the recent string of accidents.

"Lowering the speed limit, you want to make sure you don't create a more hazardous situation," he said.

In April, two Spring Hill teenagers died after their vehicle was struck pulling into the intersection from the U.S. 56 stop sign.

Between 2002 and 2005, 36 accidents occurred at the intersection - 17 resulting in injuries.


Richard Heckler 11 years, 8 months ago

How about 4 way flashing red at that intersection once the stop signs are in place?

When traveling to the east coast I notice many states have reduced speeds(55 mph) for big trucks and some keep trucks in the right lanes always. These situations are OBVIOUSLY enforced. Truck drivers frequently walk away from very serious injury and/or fatal accidents scenes.

invisible_insanity 11 years, 8 months ago

Build an overpass. Stop lights/signs do not belong on highways.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 8 months ago

You know, I think most accidents are the cause of driver error. That's why they call them accidents, instead of purposes.

That doesn't make a death any less tragic. Stop blaming the victim.

prioress 11 years, 8 months ago

Intersections don't kill people. Drivers kill other people.

conservative 11 years, 8 months ago

I think the stop signs are a good idea, simply because too many idiots keep pulling into traffic. But what is up with all the calls for expensive flashing lights? I mean if people are too stupid to stop when they hit the rumble strips and look up to see the stop signs, do you really think a flashing light will make them stop?

KSChick1 11 years, 8 months ago

Wendell was my mailman for years at KU

I am so sorry about your mother.

Don't pay attention to Snuffy. Somebody pi**ed in his wheaties.

BaldwinResident 11 years, 8 months ago

As a family member of the truck driver, there were two victims and thank you mistygreen for you sentiment, you are thoughtful to look at it from the drivers point of veiw, he felt very helpless.

KSChick1 11 years, 8 months ago

have some sympathy people

it does not matter whose fault it was that this lady was killed

she is somebody's mother/sister/wife/friend/grandmother

think about how you would feel if she was related to you and was suddenly killed

topflight 11 years, 8 months ago

Stop at the damn stop sign. Proceed with caution. It is very simple. People do it every day. Driver error is to blame for almost every accident there.

bankboy119 11 years, 8 months ago

Sounds like an old lady who shouldn't have been driving anyways. Maybe they should look at having stricter driving tests for the aged so accidents like this do not occur and no one's life is taken early.

conservative 11 years, 8 months ago

Crazyks, the death is a tragedy, but that doesn't mean that you don't put blame where it belongs. If she pulled out in front of the semi (as the police report says she did after not stopping) then yes, she is to blame.

BrianR 11 years, 8 months ago

The headline should read Safer Drivers.

babyboycat 11 years, 8 months ago

Hey "bankboy119" and "01" how about a little respect for the deceased!! I pray that you never lose someone in an accident. Apparently you do not have an elderly parent. Some day you will lose one and I hope you will enjoy the feeling. Of course you have no heart so it probably won't bother either one of you! God help you!

spammer89 11 years, 8 months ago

I drive through that intersection alot and have seen some very stupid drivers do some very very stupid things. STOP means STOP not roll on through and hope the other guy doing 50 + mph is prepared to stop. As far a semis they are nothing like a car you cannot stop something that weighs 30,000 plus pounds in a split second.

Rick Aldrich 11 years, 8 months ago

this intersection sucks and thats that. put in an overpass.

trinity 11 years, 8 months ago

not a word, from the "powers that be", about human error&culpability.

i guess people these days just aren't responsible for any darn thing huh?

and merrill, i'm curious; your statement about truck drivers frequently walking away from serious or injury accidents-are you intending to dog truck drivers? i sure hope not, because i see people in cars doing some mighty stupid things around semis, big dump trucks, all sorts of service trucks. sure, some truckers are maniacs-but, then again-so are MANY drivers. you gotta respect that huge machine&give it it's berth!

Sigmund 11 years, 8 months ago

When humans make the same error over and over again (actually each human makes the mistake only once) something needs to be done, no matter who declares it safe. This intersection has one of the highest rates of accidents resulting in serious injury and/or death in the area. Four-way stop signs, flashing lights, and rumble strips are not extraordinary measures. Does anyone seriously doubt that the rate of accidents resulting in serious bodily injury or death will not dramaticlly decline after these traffic control devices are installed?

lunacydetector 11 years, 8 months ago

take a profile photo from the left side and the right side of a Kansas Highway Patrol car. have a billboard company blow the photos up to life size. paste a couple of these gigantic L/R photos onto some all weather board. jigsaw cut the board to the car's profile. stick one in the grass about 100-200 feet from the intersection to the north and repeat the procedure to the south.

sit back and watch the people from all directions freak out as they try to obey the law and drive with caution.

my million dollar idea! i can't believe i just posted it!

actually, they've used these type of devices in europe/australia and they seem to work. sure would be cheaper than a roundabout.

mom_of_three 11 years, 8 months ago

Look at the picture the LJW used. The driver is looking for traffic, and in the background, all you see are signs, and I think there is a car in the background, but it is hard to see for the signs.
Don't know if the driver was pulled to the stop sign, or what, but I see a few problems with the intersection, just with a picture.
If enough think it is dangerous, then maybe changes should be made. It could save a few lives.

avoice 11 years, 8 months ago

I avoid that intersection almost as religiously as I avoid downtown Lawrence. But yesterday I went ahead and drove all the way to the Junction instead of taking one of the "back ways" to Baldwin. I noticed (as I do just about every day) that the crossroads at Wells Overlook road is marked at Hwy 59 with a crossroads sign with two blinking yellow lights attached. I noticed that the crossing at Zarco road is marked with the same sign, no lights. And at Baldwin Junction, another crossroads sign, no lights.

Now, why did they attach those blinkin' lights to the one and not the other two?

Sigmund 11 years, 8 months ago

Assigning blame is simply to good of a sport for you all to resist? Dead people make very easy targets don't they? Well I shall place my sights on bigger game and one that is able to fight back, KDOT. Only a Kansas Governement Agency could twist the definition of "safe" to include one of the most dangerous and deadly intersections in the area for drivers of all ages. It simply defies reality, common sense and credulity to assert otherwise! The perverse pleasure and glee at the death of this women expressed by some here is pathetic.

sammie914 11 years, 8 months ago

I was saddened, again, to see someone had lost their life at the Baldwin Junction. It has been happening for 65 years, that I know of, and probably before that. If Wells Outlook Rd. deserves big signs and blinking lights, then the Baldwin Junction deserves a lot more that it has. Why not reopen the weight station? Then all trucks would have to stop there instead of going straight through the Junction. State might be able to make some money and we would all be safer!!!

mistygreen 11 years, 8 months ago

My sympathy to the family for your loss, but the fact remains that she made a choice. She did not stop as required by the LAW at the STOP sign. Stop signs are not SUGGESTIONS they are there for a purpose, and that is to make the road/intersection safe. Every time we get behind the wheel there is the potential for danger. Not being an alert driver is one of the dangers that all drivers must pay attention too. With that being said, what about the poor truck driver? That person will have to live with the nightmare of this accident for the rest of their life. In my mind the truck driver is the victim and the woman made a unfortunate fatal error.

matahari 11 years, 8 months ago

I am not sure that picture is from Baldwin Junction..I don't go that way often, but I don't recall a grassy spot in between the roads. That intersection is not dangerous of everyone were driving by the rules. The less responsiblity you take out of the hand of the drivers, the less thinking people are going to do while they are on the road~ Respect included.

Christie Willis 11 years, 8 months ago

I grew up in Baldwin and drove thru the Baldwin Junction at least 10 times a week. The picture was taken from Baldwin Junction. I believe the picture was taken of the driver facing west on 56 highway. The grassy area you see between the two roads is actually a grassy area is the ditch between 56 highway and the driveway to what used to be the gas station and is now Hansen's Used Cars. Someone correct me if I am mistaken. I really don't like going thru the intersection. I ALWAYS look several different times both ways before going across. Any chance I can I go either gravel roads or the extra time to go thru Baldwin, even though, my parents live about 1 mile to the east of the Junction.

My heart goes out to Charlene Pohl's family. I am so very sorry for your loss. My heart also goes out to the truck driver and his family. He is only in his late twenties and will remember this terrible accident for the rest of his life. You are all in my prayers.

bd 11 years, 8 months ago

I have been traveling to work in Lawrence for over 18 years through this intersection coming from Overbrook(56hwy). I have seen many close calls and they were all due to driver error! Too many people speed on 59 hwy and the people at the stop signs underestimate the oncomming cars speed and pull out too late! Many people also pass cars turning left on the right side which is actually a right turn lane! Impatient people all in a hurry! Wait until the 4 way stop is installed! I can see the pile up on the first foggy morning! Remember the pile ups on 50 hwy a couple of years ago when they put a stop light in a construction zone! Every week there was a major accident! There is nothing wrong with that intersection! They need to change and ENFORCE the speed limit on 59hwy to 45mph at the intersection and be done with it!

matahari 11 years, 8 months ago

the bottom line is that woman ruined a young mans' life forever..he will be 'paying' in one way or another for the rest of his life. noone is hiding, it's what happened, it's a fact. If anyone's out of line here it's the man who's blaming, using obscenities, namecalling and being very rude to all in general. It's a fact she lost her life to her own mistake. And now he and her family have to pay. Not very fair if you ask me. No one is 'taking anything out' on an elderly woman in LJW forums, just stating facts.

tell_it_like_it_is 11 years, 8 months ago

jcozadd9837 bankboy..the next time one of you guys makes a mistake or a misjudgment in driving..I hope you get nailed and get nailed hard. In fact I'd like to be the one who does it. You guys are a bunch of idiots.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 8 months ago

jcozadd, you are an insensitive jerk. Be sure to tell your mom that if she ever gets killed in an accident and you think it was her own fault, you won't feel as bad that she's dead, because it was her own fault, you know.

Oh, please, matahari. You make it sound like this woman deliberately pulled out in front of a truck just so she could "ruin a young man's life forever".

Driver error? Yes, probably. Didn't stop at the stop sign? Well, we'll probably never really know. Witnesses aren't really that reliable. They aren't expecting anything major at the time, and so when it happens, the shock of it can and does make a difference in what they actually remember. The KHP doesn't know. They weren't even there until after the fact.

And we all know that nobody else on this board has ever done one of those nifty "California" stops that are so popular, don't we? They must be popular, because I see people doing it all the time.

I don't think her age had a damn thing to do with it, unless you also want to claim that the ages of those two young girls who were killed there recently was also a factor.

I think probably she misjudged how fast the oncoming traffic was going. Do you really think she drove out in front of him deliberately, knowing he was coming and would hit her?

You people are incredibly rude.

conservative 11 years, 8 months ago

Once again the LJWorld is being inconsistent in how they moderate. The other day when the article was out about the two from Tongi that died they were deleted posts that were in any way inconsiderate, and then deleting all posts that in any way responded to the original posts. Wonder why they're not doing that this time.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 8 months ago

good question conservative because there have been some very hurtful remarks on here.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 8 months ago

jcozadd, KDOT themselves said they will turn this intersection into a four-way stop, and put in rumble strips. They have been saying this for quite some time, yet it hasn't happened. Whether you think this is necessary or not, KDOT said it was going to happen, but they seem to be dragging their heels. Why?

What exactly do you think is wrong with making it a four-way stop? Do you think that actually having to slow down and stop at this intersection will make you arrive 30 seconds later to your destination? Ooh...what an inconvenience.

If these changes saves just one life, then they're worth it. And it might actually lessen driving time if you're crossing 59.

Maybe what the real problem is is the drivers on 59. If they were actually driving at 55, maybe there'd be fewer accidents. But I think the majority of drivers on 59 DON'T follow the speed limit. Just as they don't on any other road or street.

I drive 55 on 59 highway all the time. And people pass me like I was sitting still. Why the hell is everyone always in such a tearing hurry to get anywhere?

riverdrifter 11 years, 8 months ago

As I posted elsewhere, the 4-way stop is in at the 56/59 junction.

Crazyks, spot-on post.

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