Many Highways and Intersections Notorious For Fatal Crashes - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

5/18/05-East Texas

Many Highways and Intersections Notorious For Fatal Crashes

Too often, we have to report on crashes that take lives. Many happen during bad weather, and by far the most happen on Interstate 20, the highway with the most traffic.

Tonight in a special Streets of Speed investigation, we've been looking for other trouble spots.

Michael Pickens drives a stretch of Highway 31 in Smith County every day.

"A lot of times you think [other cars are] going to hit you because they're going so fast," he says.

The stretch from Tyler's East Loop to the Gregg County line has been notoroious -- called "Bloody 31."

The big factor is speed.

"I have to get over to the side [of the road], because I thought people were going to hit me," Pickens says.

Also, some don't notice other drivers slowing down in the race to get somewhere.

In Gregg County on Highway 42 from White Oak to Kilgore, and Highway 135 from Gladewater to Kilgore, accidents often are worse because of the absence of a shoulder.

In Cherokee County, "Seven Mile Hill" is the name for part of Highway 69 that twists and turns from Jacksonville to Rusk.

School bus driver Emma Miller drives her kids down it every day.

"The bus, [drivers] don't expect it, they don't care anything about that bus. If you throw your [flashing] lights on, they're not going to stop," she says... from experience.

In September of 2003, the unthinkable happened.

"I looked up the hill and I saw the car coming, and I said, 'Is that man going to slow down?'"

The driver didn't.  He died, and Emma and many kids were hurt.  To this day, she drives with a prayer in her heart, and some fear on her mind.

"That they're going to hit me again, and I'm really scared. I try not to be scared for the kids sake," she says.

Patti Foster has another story of tragedy.

"On June 18, 2002, we were being great law-abiding citizens. And we were at the red light."

Patti and several friends were going to Bible study in Tyler, when the stopped at the intersection of Highway 69 and FM 344 in Bullard. Patti turned to look in the back, to check on some flowers, as an 18-wheeler sped toward them.

"I took off my seat belt and turned to look, and apparently, that's when impact happened," she recalls.

Witnesses saw Patti fly out of the SUV. Her body seemed to hover for a moment, as she puts it, like she was being cradled by God, before she came crashing to earth.

She didn't wake up from a coma for six weeks.

Heather Folden, the youngest of the group paid the price for another's inattention.  She was killed weeks after graduating from Jacksonville High School.

"Heather was such an outgoing person. To know Heather was to love Heather.  [She was]incredible. She wore a smile so well. That was Heather," Patti says.

Heather was headed to Texas A&M.  Her life ended suddenly, Patti says all that can come from the crash is a lesson.

That on any road, at any hour, there's always someone else around you.

"Pay attention," she implores. "Pay attention to the people behind you, to the people in front of you, to the sides of you, and slow down. Pay attention to the road signs. Pay attention to the blinking lights."

Above all, Patti begs for drivers not to imagine they're invincible.

If you know of a road that is especially dangerous, or where speeders are a problem, you can call our Streets of Speed hotline at 903-510-7720, or click on the SOS icon on the home page at

Reported by Morgan Palmer.


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