Dangerous intersection gets new warning signs

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WELD COUNTY, Colo. -- On a cold, clear night in January, the Lira family was coming back from dinner in its Pontiac van heading eastbound on Weld County Road 20, a paved, dark highway east of Frederick.

According to passenger Pablo Lira, the road all of a sudden ended. Traveling about 35 mph, Lira, his driver wife Rebecca and their 12-year-old son Thomas went airborne after crossing Weld County Road 23 before their vehicle slammed into a dirt berm and then crashed into a farmer’s field.

“Someone could just die from the impact for the car could roll over. That’s a big concern to me,” Thomas told the FOX31 Denver Problem Solvers. “After we stopped I was like having a panic attack because I was wondering if everyone was OK. I went and checked on my mom and dad in the front seat. My mom told me she broke her ankle.”

Rebecca Lira is still recovering 2 1/2 months later in a foot boot. Colorado State Patrol troopers issued her a ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign at a through highway, something the family said was unfair.

“I called you because I was concerned, before somebody dies out here. We’re lucky we didn’t die,” Pablo Lira said. “It was really dark. You can’t see the end of the road. And I know there was as stop sign at the corner, but you could not see it.  The county or state needs to warn drivers that this is a dangerous intersection.”

The Problem Solvers used the Colorado Open Records Act to acquire CSP citation and accident reports at the intersection.

Over about the past three years, at least seven sober drivers told the same story as the Liras to state troopers: They couldn’t see a stop sign on the corner and because of that ended up crashing their vehicles into the field east of Weld County Road 23.

According to records provided by Weld County, since 2010, five drivers have been issued tickets at the location for inattentive driving, three for disregarding a stop sign and two were cited for DUI.

After we contacted Weld County in January, the Public Works Division did an analysis and the county immediately decided to make major safety improvements.

A new bright intersection yellow arrow sign is now in front of the field that drivers had previously crashed into. The stop sign is on a taller pole and with new reflective tape. And the county installed a third sign before the intersection that warns drivers a stop sign is upcoming.

“One accident could tell us it’s a dangerous intersection," Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said.

She praised the Public Works Division for constantly evaluating road safety in the fast-growing but still agriculture county.

“We do everything we can to ensure the safety of the traveling public,” Kirkmeyer said.

But she added the county can only do so much.

“(Drivers) have to observe safe driving practices as well," she said. "That’s their responsibility.”

Pablo Lira and his son are thrilled the county listened to their concerns and believe the new signage will help the next family who drives through the intersection in the dark to be in a better position to stay safe.

“At least they did something. They listened to us,” Lira said. “They made a positive thing out here. Maybe saved a life.”

Weld County hopes that citizens who see any traffic safety issues call them at 970-304-6498.

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