Kane County Bolsters Security at St. Charles Fatal Crash Site
In response to the death of a recent graduate of St. Charles North High School, Kane County decided this week to immediately improve traffic safety at an intersection that is experiencing an increasing number of accidents.
Kevin White, a former baseball player at the school, was a passenger in a gray 2009 Chevy Malibu driven by his friend, Mason Koffenberger, on August 16. As they were driving north on Randall Road, a silver 2016 Toyota Sienna driven by an Elgin man turned left onto Red Gate Road in front of Koffenberger’s vehicle. Koffenberger left the roadway to avoid a collision and hit a traffic light pole. White, 19, did not survive his injuries.
Koffenberger is still dealing with the emotional wounds a month later, his mother, Deanna Velazquez, said in a tearful plea to county board members this week.
“August 16 was a day I will never forget,” she said. “Please consider a change at the intersection. The community we all live in, classmates, baseball teammates, and students who frequent the north must now cross this intersection. I don’t want that ‘a family is going through this again.”
Velazquez was just one of many to speak out about the dangers of the Randall Road/Red Gate Road intersection.
Ella Roth, a senior in St. Charles North, said she also had a car accident at that intersection in 2020. She also witnessed a subsequent collision there while in high school.
“This is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately,” Roth told the county council.
She also presented an 8,000-signature petition supporting the safety changes, in particular a protected left turn signal.
With crash data backing up what Roth and others have shared anecdotes about, Steve Zulkowski, the traffic operations chief, said that’s what his team will put in place.
The speed limit at this intersection is 50 mph. But Zulkowski’s data showed that it’s not uncommon for vehicles to pass at over 67 mph, especially when drivers are rushing to or from St. Charles North in the morning or afternoon. There have been 63 crashes since 2016. Data from the past two years shows a “rising tail” of crashes. There have been 11 accidents at the intersection in 2022 so far.
Part of the problem seems to be the flashing yellow arrow that governs the same left turns at the heart of the crash that killed Kevin White. The county will change this to the more common green turn arrow during the day. The idea is to help prevent misjudgments of how quickly oncoming traffic is approaching the intersection when drivers try to turn left.
During the evening hours, the intersection will revert to flashing yellow to prevent motorists from sitting longer than necessary to make turns when traffic is lighter.
County officials will also adjust the timing of lights at the intersection, improve the lane to account for the long line of cars waiting to make turns, and strengthen traffic enforcement during events and hours of high traffic.
County Council Member Drew Frasz is the chairman of the council’s transportation committee. He said county staff began reviewing the changes the same day the accident occurred. The immediate changes are just the start of the county’s efforts to address the issue, he said.
“We have a large high school at the end of a two-lane country road,” Frasz said. “We have a problem with power surges in the morning and afternoon and when there are big events at school where you have a lot of young drivers rushing to get there. Safety is our top priority.”
County officials will also explore expanding the school safe zone near the high school as a way to possibly justify a reduced speed limit at the intersection. Existing state and county rules currently block any speed adjustment.