Central Lyon fire chief says slower speed limit saves lives on stretch of Highway 50
December 5, 2006
This year, Highway 50 got a new unofficial name.
“They call it “Hamburger Highway,” said Central Lyon County Fire Chief John Gillenwater, because people look like hamburger when they are pulled from crushed vehicles after accidents.
“It looked like a helicopter parking lot for a few days, during the time of construction. We had a lot of accidents on that highway,” he added.
Gillenwater would like to see the speed limit remain at 55 mph east of Dayton on Highway 50, which it has been since the spring, when the Nevada Department of Transportation began widening the road from two lanes to four.
Gillenwater said the part of his business that involves pulling crushed bodies from mangled steel had decreased since the speed limit was lowered and the construction ended.
“I would love it to be a permanent thing,” he said. “I think they’re saving lives.”
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The speed limit was supposed to go back to 65 mph when the work was through. But after Lyon County officials expressed concern about accidents, including several fatalities, NDOT officials have kept the speed limit at 55 – for now.
“We’re going to have it stay at 55 while we do a speed study,” Magruder said. He added that limit will remain for the foreseeable future.
The speed study will begin after the first of the year, Magruder said, adding there are no plans to install more traffic lights along Highway 50.
“I know there’s been some fatalities on there, but I don’t think it’s that many,” he said.
According to Nevada Highway Patrol statistics, there have been 835 accidents on Highway 50 from Carson City to Silver Springs since January 2004, with 16 of them involving fatalities.
In a Sept. 29, 2006, accident, Ruby Beghtel, 83, was killed in a crash in the westbound lanes of Highway 50 East between Occidental Drive and Six Mile Canyon Road. The other driver was not injured.
On Nov. 5, 2006, Alan Manire, 54, of Fallon, was killed when his Ford pickup crossed into the eastbound lane on Highway 50 and struck another truck near Boyer Lane in Stagecoach. The occupants of the other vehicle, Linda Busch, 56, of Stagecoach, and her husband, Dennis, suffered serious injuries.
And on Sept. 19, 2006, Diana Parsons, 50, of Fallon, and William Howell, 59, of Sheffield, Ohio, were killed in a head-on collision of their vehicles on Highway 50 four miles west of Silver Springs. A female passenger in the Dodge, Janice Howell, 61, of Fernley, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Christopher Adam Leach, 32, of Dayton, died Aug. 30, 2006, as a result of a motorcycle accident on Highway 50 on Dayton Hill.
Dayton resident Jerry Liggett said, with the increasing growth, the speed limit should stay at 55.
“I don’t think going 55 hurts anybody, especially in that area with all the congestion,” he said. “They have a school there now. I don’t see anything wrong with keeping it at 55.”
The hardest part of a trooper’s job is going to the scene of a fatal accident then having to notify the next of kin, said Nevada Highway Patrol Officer Chuck Allen.
He tells of an incident around Christmastime last year, when he had to inform parents of the deaths of their children.
“You see the Christmas tree, you see the presents that will never be opened,” he said. “It’s tough.”
Allen said that although speed is not the main cause of traffic accidents, it is the primary factor in their severity.
“That’s why it’s very critical for motorists to adhere to the posted speed limit,” he said. “And when we have inclement weather or other factors, if it’s snowing, it’s up to drivers to adjust their speed even more.”
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111, ext. 351.
By the numbers
Fatal accidents on Highway 50 from January 2004 to November 2006
Date Time Location
1/22/04 5:34 p.m. Highway 50 at Deer Run Road
4/8/04 12:29 p.m. Highway 50 at mile marker 4
in Lyon Co
4/27/04 8:08 a.m. Highway 50 at mile marker 27 in Stagecoach
10/14/04 4:43 p.m. Highway 50 at Red Rock Road, in Mound House
11/23/04 10:19 p.m. Highway 50 at Dayton Hill
9/30/05 11:46 a.m. Highway 50 East and Rand Ave.
5/28/05 10:24 p.m. Highway 50 at Lompa Lane
12/16/05 5:48 a.m. Highway 50 in Mound House
2/16/06 10:55 a.m. Deer Run Road, Mallow Road
2/20/06 3:12 p.m. Highway 50 at Airport Road
8/30/06 9:40 p.m. Highway 50 at Dayton Hill
6/17/06 11:58 p.m. Highway 50 and Apache Drive
9/19/06 3:55 p.m. Highway 50 and Shirlee Ave.
9/29/06 9:19 a.m. Highway 50/Occidental Circle
10/17/06 3:31 a.m. Highway 50 and Airport Road
11/5/06 9:35 p.m. Highway 50 at Boyer Lane
– Source: Nevada Highway Patrol