At 3:39 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, a Sullivan School District bus carrying 11 passengers struck a vehicle that crossed into its path at Illinois 32 and Moultrie County Road 800 North, also known as the Bruce-Findlay Road.
Killed were Tyson Medoza, 5, of Gays, who was a passenger on the bus, and Lori Samples, 56, of Decatur, the driver of the SUV. Their deaths bring the number of fatalities at the intersection to three since 2008. Carolyn S. Keown, 53, died in an accident there in 2010.
We are not sure of what caused this tragedy south of Sullivan. It will be up to investigators to piece together what happened. But state and local officials are wasting little time researching what can be done to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.
Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell said District 7 and the Bureau of Safety Programs and Engineering in Springfield plan to conduct a road safety audit of the intersection to determine if improvements are warranted. As for a timeline, he said the analysis will be done “as quickly as possible.”
The sooner the better.
It doesn't take long to find motorists familiar with that stretch of roadway who will share horror stories about the intersection. That fact became clear while seeking comments from people for the story that appears on the front page of today's Herald & Review.
Those fears are only enhanced among those who saw the video from a 2017 crash when a van collided with a Teutopolis School District bus, causing it to overturn. The bus was carrying members of the boys basketball team, cheerleaders and staff. The driver of the car that caused the accident pleaded guilty aggravated driving under the influence and was sentenced to two years in prison.
The intersection has been the site of 26 accidents in the past 11 years, according to a coordinate collision diagram report from the Illinois Department of Transportation.
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Illinois 32, a state-controlled highway, carries traffic non-stop from a bridge over Lake Shelbyville near the Sullivan Marina to Windsor. Moultrie County Road 800 North is an east-west road, with marked stop signs at its intersection with Illinois 32.
In addition to flashing beacons attached to the stop signs, there also are rumble strips on the county highway as drivers approach the intersection. Signs that read “Illinois 32 DOES NOT STOP LOOK BOTH WAYS” have been placed under the stop signs as well.
One can only suspect a rising and setting sun and crops in the nearby fields could prove to be challenging at times. However, that shouldn't have been the case in the most recent accident.
Sullivan resident Tracy Willoughby is spearheading a petition to install a stoplight at the intersection. The petition had nearly 7,000 signatures as of Thursday morning.
Willoughby and others can take solace in the fact such a resolution is a possibility. Faced with similar tragic circumstances, Rose Ross of Harristown led a successful effort to have traffic signals installed at Harristown Boulevard and U.S. 36.
The only sure bet for making the intersection safer is enhanced awareness by motorists. Drivers along Illinois 32 need to follow posted speed limits and be aware of their surroundings. Those entering onto Illinois 32 or crossing it, need to come to a complete stop, look both ways and proceed with caution.
These are common sense rules that should be applied by all motorists, at all times while they are behind the wheel of a vehicle. Failure to do so could prove deadly.