In response to the death of a recent St. Charles North High School graduate, Kane County moved last week toward immediate traffic safety improvements at an intersection that’s seen an increasing number of accidents.
Kevin White, a former baseball player at the school, was a passenger in a 2009 gray Chevy Malibu driven by his friend Mason Koffenberger on Aug. 16. As they drove north on Randall Road, a 2016 silver Toyota Sienna driven by an Elgin man turned left onto Red Gate Road in front of Koffenberger’s vehicle. Koffenberger veered off the roadway to avoid a collision and struck a traffic signal pole. White, 19, didn’t survive his injuries.
Koffenberger is still dealing with the emotional wounds a month later, said his mother, Deanna Velazquez, in a tear-filled plea to county board members last week.
“Aug. 16 was a day I will never forget,” she said. “Please consider a change at the intersection. The community in which we all live, his classmates, his baseball teammates and the students that attend North now have to drive through that intersection. I don’t want any family to go through this again.”
Velazquez was one of several people to speak of the dangers of the intersection of Randall and Red Gate roads.
Ella Roth, a senior at St. Charles North, said she was in a car crash at that intersection in 2020. She also witnessed a collision there during her time at the high school.
“This is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately,” Roth told the county board.
She presented a petition with 8,000 signatures supporting safety changes, especially a protected left turn traffic signal.
With accident data supporting what Roth and others spoke about, Steve Zulkowski, the chief of traffic operations, said a protected left turn traffic signal is what his team will put in place.
The speed limit at the intersection is 50 mph, but Zulkowski’s data showed it’s not uncommon for vehicles to zip through in excess of 67 mph, particularly when drivers are rushing to or from St. Charles North in the morning or afternoon. There have been 63 accidents there since 2016. Data from the past two years shows an “upward tail” of collisions. There have been 11 accidents at the intersection this year.
Part of the problem seems to be the flashing yellow arrow that governs the left turns, which were at the heart of the accident that killed White. The county will change them to the more common green turn arrows during daylight hours. The idea is to help prevent the misjudging of how quickly oncoming traffic is approaching the intersection as drivers attempt to turn left.
During evening hours, the intersection will revert to the flashing yellow to avoid having motorists sit longer than necessary to make turns when traffic is lighter.
County officials also will adjust the timing of the lights at the intersection, improve the striping to account for the long queuing of cars waiting to make turns and beef up traffic enforcement during high traffic events and times.
County board member Drew Frasz is the chairman of the board’s transportation committee. He said county staff began examining changes the day of the accident. The immediate changes are just the start of the county’s efforts to address the problem, he said.
“We have a big high school at the end of a two-lane country road,” Frasz said. “We have a surge problem in the morning and afternoons and when there are big events at the school where you have a lot of young drivers in a hurry to get there. Safety is our top priority.”
County officials also will explore extending the school safety zone near the high school as a way to justify possibly lowering the speed limit at the intersection. Existing state and county rules currently block any speed adjustments.