TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — Changes have been made to an intersection on a brand-new highway in Tooele County after several crashes forced officials to look at what was going wrong.
While the Utah Department of Transportation found no fault in highway design or safety, it made tweaks in hopes of helping drivers better navigate a problem intersection.
The trip to Grantsville from Interstate 80 is now a breeze with the new Midvalley Highway.
"It has been fantastic for people that live out in that area," said John Gleason, UDOTs Public Relations Director.
But for people like Rhona Boutwell, instead of cutting down the commute, a new intersection along the highway has increased her concerns.
"They opened this road up two weeks ago, they've already had I don't know how many accidents," Boutwell said.
Boutwell is talking about Parachute Lane, which is a small north-south connector road that runs between Pole Canyon Road and the highway.
Anyone driving from Stansbury Park to Grantsville uses the road.
"They call it the Parachute Lane. I call it the 'paramedic lane,'" Boutwell said. "Because we already have one person killed there."
Boutwell has even more reason to call it that after what happened to her son, Johnny, Tuesday evening as he was being driven home in a van.
Boutwell said her son is in a day program for people with disabilities, and was sitting in his wheelchair in the back of the van as the driver pulled up to the Highway on Parachute Lane.
"They went to turn left into that lane and they got T-boned by a truck with a crane boom," Boutwell described.
The construction truck pushed the van, crushing on side. Boutwell said her 26-year-old son came within a foot of being killed.
Johnny is paraplegic, she said, and doctors worried his spine was injured even more. He is in the neuro ICU, she said, with a brain bleed and concussion.
Gleason explained that UDOT has been keeping track of all the crashes since the highway opened over Halloween weekend. They've now recorded five accidents, which includes one fatality.
He added that within that first week, crews investigated why cars kept crashing.
"When we went out to see if there's anything that we can do to enhance safety, it appeared that everything was built to all safety standards," Gleason said. "But we have to look at how people are actually driving it."
They figured out that the first four crashes all happened because drivers ran the stop sign from Parachute Lane onto the highway. Gleason said that included the fatal crash in which the driver didn't stop at the sign and pulled out in front of a cement truck.
UDOT crews implemented additional safety measures and changes at the intersection.
"We put in the LED lights on the border of the stop sign. We painted a 'STOP' sign on the pavement," Gleason said. "And just added some additional signs, letting people know that they were approaching a stop sign."
Gleason added the idea was to take away any sense of confusion and make the intersection as straight forward as possible.
The driver of Johnny's van did stop at the now light-up sign, Boutwell indicated, but the driver made the turn with not enough time to clear the truck because of its speed.
She doesn't want this to keep happening.
"I think there needs to be stop lights," she said. "There's got to be something better than what they have there."
UDOT doesn't want this to keep happening either.
"We're going to do everything that we can to make our roads as safe as they can possibly be," Gleason said.
In addition to the measures UDOT takes, Gleason said road safety is also dependent on driver behavior, especially when navigating a brand new road.