Sheriff gets new safety sign for county intersection

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 The intersection of State Roads 129 and 250 at Pleasant has long been a source of fear for local motorists, as drivers regularly run the four-way stop signs there.

  The intersection had a fatal car accident in December of 2019 — and that’s when Switzerland County Sheriff Brian Morton decided that something needed to be done.

  “We have always, for the past several years, gotten complaints from people blowing through that intersection,” Sheriff Morton said. “The deputies would go out and sit there as often as they could, and they wrote a lot of tickets out there over the past few years with people disregarding it. But it’s a big county and we have limited officers and we can’t be out there as often as we’d like. That’s when I reached out to the INDOT liaison at the Governor’s office. I’ve really been working in this for about two years to try and get them to put some sort of light out there.”

  Sheriff Morton’s efforts became reality on Tuesday morning, as workers with INDOT installed solar-powered flashing stop signs on the north and south sides of the intersection (on State Road 129). Although Morton had hoped for either a four-way flashing light or the illuminated stop signs in all four directions — he was happy that his concerns had brought another level of safety to that intersection.

  “There’s so many out of towners who drive down to the boat, and they drive 20-some miles from Versailles, and they don’t have a stop anywhere. It’s even worse at night,” Sheriff Morton said. “Then all of a sudden, the next thing they know, they’re through it. Many of the people we stop for going through that stop, they don’t even realize that they went through a stop sign. I knew at some point we needed something more than just a sign.”

  Morton said that when he first started talking with INDOT about this situation, he said that they have a traffic safety engineer who came down and assessed the intersection.

  “I found out later than they said that it doesn’t meet the qualifications to justify any type of lighting,” Morton said. “So we wondered what he was judging that off of? So time passed and we ended up having that fatality crash, so I reached out again and said, ‘Now we’ve had a fatality accident at this intersection, we need to get something going’. So they came down and re-assessed the intersection again, and they said that it appeared that there was some signage clutter that needed to be cleaned up, and they would put larger stop signs with reflective posts. I still didn’t feel like that was the fix.”

  The Sheriff said that recently he got to speak with the traffic safety engineer, and asked for specifics as to why the intersection didn’t meet the standard for more safety signage.

  “It’s an intersection of two state highways,” Morton said. “He explained that the state’s decisions are based off of crash data that they pull from the state. Fortunately, there haven’t been many accidents — hardly any — out there at the four-way; but after speaking with him on the phone, he now realizes that this is a high spot. There have been tons and tons of close calls with people blowing through there, which isn’t documented anywhere in the state’s database.”

  The Sheriff said that after speaking with the INDOT official, he told Morton that he could see how the crash data that the state has doesn’t tell the entire story of that intersection, and he promised to see what he could do about getting lights or something else.

  That all came to a result on Tuesday, when the new lights were installed.