Verdigris Student Hopes To Lower Highway 266 Speed Limit After Deadly Crashes
ROGERS COUNTY, Oklahoma - It’s sickening to think this is happening in our own community, my fear is it's going to be one of my friends next or one of my family members,” Verdigris high school senior Jacob York told News on 6 Wednesday.
York is the student body president and a Rogers County Auxiliary Deputy. He says he travels Highway 266 every day to get to school. "My parents for the longest time, they wouldn't let me drive this road during rush hour. "
York says that’s because Highway 266 has been the scene of a number of car crashes over the years. Police say more than 20 crashes have happened in the last four years - three of those were fatal.
Neighbor Tommy Collins has lived on the very corner where a woman lost her life in a crash on Monday “I saw the lady take her last two breaths,” Collins said with tears in his eyes. I am outside a lot so I hear the impact a lot when the crashes take place and it’s a sound that will keep you awake at night,” Collins told News on 6.
Collins said he built his home 30 years ago and said traffic and wrecks have increased as more neighborhoods and businesses move into the area. He said that he has seen as many as four car crashes in one weekend outside his home.
York started a Facebook group called Operation Slow Down 266, which is aimed at reducing the speed from 65 to 55. "I said you know what this can't happen anymore, there's too many lives taken on this roadway," York told News on 6.
Police said speed is not a factor in every car crash. They said the fatal crash on Monday was because of distracted driving. York has also reached out The Oklahoma Department of Transportation, pushing for traffic lights and turn lanes along Highway 266. "I know it won't change it [the crashes], but it’s a step in the right direction," York said.
Tommy Collins said he and his wife are ready to help if another crash happens outside his home, by making an emergency bag with water for law enforcement officers as well as snacks and stuffed animals for children. Collins said he hopes changes will be made if his community continues to speak up.
“It shows you how fragile life can be and there needs to be something done to protect this intersection,” says Collins.
News on 6 reached out to ODOT, which said they are aware of the dangers of Highway 266, but have no plans for construction on it.
ODOT officials said city government can request another traffic survey to be done to reassess the highway.