Deadly highway claims another life, faces renovation in coming years

Updated 3:40 p.m. on Sept. 4, 2014

By Elisabeth Hall–

Tarleton sophomore Sade Lowery was killed Monday at 4 p.m. in a car accident on U.S. Highway 281 outside Stephenville.

She was heading south on 281 when a stock trailer veered into oncoming traffic and into her car, according to the Stephenville Empire-Tribune. The reasons why the car went into oncoming traffic are unknown. The stock trailer’s driver, Kevin Green, 42, was airlifted, and the passenger of his car, Samuel Huff, 47, was released, the newspaper reported.

Drivers traveling U.S. Highway 281 through Erath County know it can be a dangerous venture. With road conditions not being up to par and speed limits at a questionable rate, driving this stretch of highway can be harmful and even deadly. In the past two years there have been several motor vehicle accidents involving Tarleton State University students and longtime residents of Erath County. Many of these accidents have claimed lives.

Public records at the Texas Department of Public Transportation from 2012 and 2013 combined show approximately 2,508 fatal crashes on state highways in Texas, and in Erath County alone there were a total of 23 fatal accidents on state highways. In 2011 the state of Texas passed House Bill 1353, stating that speed limits on state highways and inter- states can be raised to 75 if it can be done so safely. On U.S. Highway 281, the speed limit previously was 70 mph, and still is in some areas, but now certain sections have been brought up to 75 mph. The safety of the limit being so high is questionable since the road includes sharp curves and a lot of potholes and dips.

Alexandria Rogers, a junior at Tarleton State University said in a phone interview that after losing so many fellow Texans on this road, raising the speed limit “felt like a slap in the face to those people we have lost on that road. We all know it’s too dangerous… Raising the speed limit was a careless move and made that road even more unsafe for the residents of Erath County.”

Rogers said she takes precautions to help make U.S. Highway 281 a safer place for herself and other people. “I stay at least five below the speed limit, in the right lane when possible, do not touch my cell phone and stay alert for people and loose animals,” she said.

Val Lopez, a public information officer at the Texas Department of Transportation for the Fort Worth district, had a different perspective to offer.

“The issue is: if traffic is all going a similar speed, it makes for a safer place,” he said. “The more consistent the speed it makes for a safer speed, even if it is a higher one. There is a safety test that gets performed before a highway is approved to have the speed limit changed.”

Lopez also said there will be future projects to help make U.S. Highway 281 a safer place. “In the next five years we can see construction starting to make longer passing lanes going from I-20 all the way through Erath County,” he said. “It will approximately be $20,000 in worth, which is a very large project for any location.”

Vice President of Student Life Rusty Jergins said in an email that a Wake will be held for Sade Lowery Friday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. The memorial service will take place on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Good Street Baptist Church in Dallas. Funeral services will be held under the care of Lincoln Funeral Home and Memorial Parks.

Bethany Kyle and Harley Brown contributed to this report.

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1 Response

  1. gary key says:

    I, and everyone I know, agree that the speed limit is too high on hwy. 281. Being a volunteer firefighter, I know that there has been a sharp increase in the number of serious accidents just in the northern part of the county alone. The epidemic use of phones for texting seems to have also contributed to this rise. Virtually all of the law enforcement people that we talk to also agree that 75 is much too fast. Let’s wait until these widening improvements are made and then consider having a slightly higher limit in places. Thank you for your article, Gary Key, Morgan Mill

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