January 27, 2002 11:00 pm

There are probably a number of dangerous intersections in Northeast Oregon. But the one at Pierce Road and Highway 237 comes immediately to mind because of a three-vehicle accident there Monday night. Thank goodness no fatalities resulted, but several people were taken to the hospital and the damage to vehicles was significant. Snow, icy road conditions and low visibility all contributed to the accident, as did a lack of warning signs or other devices advising drivers in no uncertain terms that a dangerous intersection is ahead.

Sure, there are stop ahead and stop signs for drivers coming both north and south on Pierce. But this is a full-speed, 55 mile-per-hour road. Highway 237 is also a full speed highway and has the right of way, with no stop signs. The problem is the lack of a light at the intersection, or other more significant ways than signs to warn drivers they are approaching a busy crossing. Traffic is thick here because the route serves as a bypass to La Grande coming north or south, and serves the large Nash and Terry Trailer factories, with many shift changes.

But all is not darkness. A problem implies a solution. Improvements could include everything from the cheap to the expensive. On what is probably the least expensive end, the signs already in place could get more reflectors so that they are easier to pick out on a dark and stormy night or day. Reflectors could also be placed along the roadways coming south and north. A more expensive project might be adding rumble strips on Pierce Road to warn drivers that a potentially dangerous intersection is ahead. Or, at a greater cost, pole lights could be placed at the intersection to let drivers know far ahead of time that a potentially dangerous crossing awaits.

Drivers, too, need to be aware of dangerous intersections. Defensive, alert driving is important, particularly in winter. Give more room to stop on snow and ice. Follow other safety rules.

With current budget constraints, a fiscally conservative approach is prudent in fixing the intersection problem. Intersection studies could help come up with priorities for improvements. But something should be done as soon as possible about intersections like Pierce Road and Highway 237. The bottom line: Something must be done before a fatality occurs at this intersection.


When Mother Nature gets nasty, drivers still hit the highways, as the story about the traffic jams in Ladd Canyon and on the Meacham pass suggest. But drivers who tackle the interstates in winter should remember modern technology is not the answer for everything.

State Police Sgt. Randy Palmer warns not to use cruise control when the temperature dips below 35 degrees. The reason? When the road gets slick, a cars wheels continue to spin when cruise control is engaged, causing the driver to lose control. Palmer suggests that cruise control be designed so that it will disengage when the temperature drops below 35.