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Automobile Collisions / Workers' Compensation

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Changes coming to school road after Wisconsin teacher's death

The death of a student teacher - killed in an accident in front of the rural Wisconsin high school where she taught -- has state transportation and school officials rushing to do something to protect other drivers from the victim's fate. The late May accident on Highway 14 near Mazomanie remains under investigation.

The speed limit past the entrance of Wisconsin Heights High School is 55 mph. The teacher was killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into the rear of her car and shoved the vehicle in front of a van.

Two years ago, the state transportation department released a study of the high-speed roadway. Engineers were concerned at the time about the increase in area traffic and the dangerous design of the entrance to the school's parking lot. Apparently, no actions were taken on the engineers' suggestions.

School administrators and community leaders contacted DOT shortly after the fatal car accident to request another traffic study. Residents and school officials want immediate action taken, before school reopens and hundreds of rural teen drivers return to regular classes.

School signs will be installed along Highway 14 in both directions and near the school entrance. Pavement markings will be added. Future improvement may require a highway reconstruction project to change the way traffic moves and turns in front of the school.

Recommendations to lower the speed limit on Highway 14 are being considered, although DOT officials say signs may not alter the speeding habits of some country road drivers.

A serious traffic problem was recognized by Wisconsin officials in 2010. Officials did nothing with the information they had until a teacher lost her life. A police investigation may or may not result in charges against the tractor-trailer driver who caused the fatality.

A wrongful death lawsuit could address the negligence of a driver. It could also shed light on the carelessness of transportation and local officials. The failure of DOT and community leaders to remove a known traffic hazard may have cost a woman's life.

Source: host.madison.com, "After fatal crash in front of school, Highway 14 improvements eyed," George Hesselberg, July 26, 2012

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