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Dangerous intersection or driver distraction?

Commissioners study crash history at intersection of County Roads 4 and 6 near Beaver Creek
Lead Summary
Mavis Fodness

At the Nov. 8 County Commissioners meeting, county engineer Mark Sehr presented a crash report for the intersection of County Road 4 (old Hwy. 16) and County Road 6 on the northeast side of Beaver Creek, where six accidents have occurred since 2010.
Commissioners questioned safety measures at the intersection after the Oct. 9 motorcycle vs. vehicle crash that seriously injured Matt McClure of Luverne. They asked if additional safety measures should be implemented at the intersection.
“The best solution, in a perfect world, would be a roundabout,” Sehr said.
However, a 55-mph roundabout would require several acres of land, which is not a viable safety option at the intersection.
Sehr also ruled out an all-way stop.
“It creates two more (distractions) — where people need to make decisions or not obey — then you have the same situation,” he said.
“It was a busy intersection because you have the golf course right there, a house right there, and railroad tracks.”
The intersection was studied prior to the installation of LED-enhanced stop signs in the fall of 2021.
“I looked at this intersection — when you stop (on County Road 6) you can see both directions (along County Road 4) from a distance — when we put the flashing stop signs in,” Sehr said.
Sehr used the Minnesota Department of Transportation software program MnCMAT (Minnesota’s Crash Mapping Analysis Tool) to determine if additional safety measures need to be implemented at that intersection.
Sehr’s study included accidents from 2011 to 2021, during which timeframe there were four crashes. The report did not include the McClure crash or the 2010 collision that killed Luverne’s Joshua Nibbelink and the motorcyclist who failed to yield.
County officials expected the number of crashes to be higher than what the report showed.
No additional safety measures were recommended for the already distraction-riddled intersection.
MnCMAT report reveals four crashes
The MnCMAT uses information gathered by law enforcement agencies to plot all crashes in Minnesota.
The report includes 67 pieces of information including route, date/day/time, severity, crash causation, weather and road conditions.
Information is available over a 10-year timeframe. None of the crashes at the intersection near Beaver Creek showed any pattern.
The crashes revealed:
•One minor injury and the other three property damage incidents.
•They occurred at different times of the day ranging from 6 a.m. to just before midnight.
•They involved drivers ranging in age from under 21 to two drivers over age 65.
•Driving conditions in three of the crashes were dry, and one involved ice/frost.
Sheriff Evan Verbrugge said speed may be a factor.
Drivers drop down to 30 mph coming into Beaver Creek traveling east and begin accelerating as they come to the intersection of County Roads 4 and 6.
However, Verbrugge said many drivers are not going slow enough through Beaver Creek.
“I’ve had a deputy sitting there at the location near the curve — at the old gas station — and pulls people over all the time for speeding,” he said.
“We are actively trying to slow people down. It comes down to driver distractions.”
Report shows possible driver distraction
The MnCMAT indicated drivers primarily reported they failed to yield the right of way to traffic on County Road 4. Three of the drivers reported no clear contributing action in the crashes.
Sehr pointed to the Nibbelink crash and the most recent McClure crash as to the seriousness when drivers become too distracted as they drive up on the intersection.
“I don’t know if it is driver distraction coming off the interstate and trying to figure out where they are going or what they were doing that they don’t take a hard look there or a hard stop. I’m at a failure to explain the last one that happened with Matt. I think the sun conditions may have (been a factor) but it is hard to say,” Sehr said.

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