Grants Pass community concerned about accidents on Highway 199

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Highway 199 is back open following a deadly head-on crash Friday morning that claimed two lives and left another seriously injured.

Since the beginning of this year, there have been 125 crashes on Highway 199 according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Highway 199, also called the Redwood Highway, recently ranked number 13 on a list of the 25 most dangerous highways in the United States.

“My observation on this highway has been lots of ambulances, lots of sirens, lots of high-speed police passing by,” Shelley Hughes, Grants Pass resident, said.

Hughes has lived off the highway for nearly five years.  She said she sees car speeding above the speed limit way too often.

“I don’t know why exactly they’re in a rush, maybe it’s because they’re coming from the rural area or the coast and they’re trying to get to town,” Hughes said.

She said she’s seen seven fatal accidents in her area alone. She thinks signage and stop lights are not enough to protect drivers.

“The reflectors and the lanes, especially at night, you can’t see them, they can do a lot better at marking the roads.”

Rural Metro Fire is one of several agencies that respond to accidents on Highway 199.

“It has its elements of danger,” Trevor Johnson, Engineer with Rural Fire Metro, said. “I think probably the most dangerous is the human element, when you get a lot of distracted drivers and a lot of people not paying attention to what’s going on, that’s we tend to see most of the accidents happen.”

Johnson said accidents tend to rise this time of year as more people are on the highway and speeding.

“There are sometimes health issues that are involved as well, but definitely distracted driving is probably the biggest cause of accidents,” Johnson said.

He said police do a lot to prevent accidents from happening but it’s on drivers to be responsible.

“Obey the speed limit, slow down, especially if you’re not familiar with the road, don’t be a distracted driver, keep your cell phone down and away, use your hands off devices and just obey the laws, it’ll help you keep a lot safer.”

ODOT said more than $55 Million has been spent in the last 15 years for safety improvements on Highway 199.

Next year it will improve the pavement and add new high visibility striping.

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