Daily Herald opinion: Kane County takes quick action to make intersection safer
When it comes to traffic issues, the old saying that the wheels of government move slowly is often true.
Usually, there are studies, staff reports and repeated discussions that must happen before officials decide whether to adjust a speed limit or make changes to an intersection.
But last week, Kane County officials did something impressive in response to the death of a recent St. Charles North High School graduate. They acted quickly to implement safety improvements at the site of a growing number of crashes.
Nineteen-year-old Kevin White died from injuries he suffered during an Aug. 16 crash at the intersection of Red Gate and Randall roads.
White was a passenger in a 2009 Chevy Malibu traveling north on Randall Road when a 2016 Toyota Sienna driven by an Elgin man turned left onto Red Gate Road in front of the Malibu. The driver of the Malibu veered off the roadway to avoid a collision and struck a traffic signal pole.
White's death prompted a senior at St. Charles North to petition for safety improvements at Randall and Red Gate roads. By the time Ella Roth presented the change.org petition to county officials last week, roughly 8,000 people had signed it.
"This is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately," said Roth, who herself was involved in a crash involving a left turn at the same intersection in 2020. She also witnessed a subsequent collision, again involving a left turn, there.
It's common for officials to assure residents that they will look into their concerns. But in this instance, Kane County officials were already examining the problem. And what they found is alarming.
In a story last week, senior writer James Fuller explained the speed limit is 50 mph at Randall and Red Gate roads. But data showed it's not uncommon for vehicles to go as fast as 67 mph through the intersection, especially during the morning and afternoon. Meanwhile, a flashing yellow arrow allowed motorists to turn left after yielding to oncoming traffic. In some instances, drivers misjudge how quickly oncoming traffic is approaching.
Fuller reported that 63 accidents have happened at the intersection since 2016, including 11 so far in 2022.
So Kane County officials decided to change the flashing yellow arrow to the more common green turn arrow during daylight hours. The intersection will revert to a flashing yellow during evening hours when traffic is lighter.
Fuller reported that the county also plans to adjust the timing of the lights, improve the striping to account for the long queuing of cars waiting to make turns and increase traffic enforcement during busy times.
The actions were possible because county staff began examining changes the same day of the crash that killed White.
Kane officials deserve kudos for recognizing that changes were needed as soon as possible. Their efforts will make the intersection safer.