WTVM Investigates: One intersection in Russell County known as ‘beyond deadly’

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 10:28 AM EDT
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RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WTVM) - US Highway 431 and Alabama 165 in Russell County are known for accidents - considered ‘beyond deadly’ by those who drive through that intersection every day.

The number of car crashes that have happened there in the last five years is staggering. And many are calling for solutions..

News Leader 9′s Roslyn Giles spent some time at that location talking to people about ways to help to save lives.

“They be going too fast and it’s hard for them to stop.”

“Lower the speed limit before you come over the hill there.”

And what do citizens say the biggest problem is? Speed.

The speed limit is 65 miles per hour on Highway 431 near Alabama 165 in Russell County but that doesn’t mean you have to go that fast.

“On a consistent basis, I probably run this highway back and forth when it was a two-lane highway for 40 years,” said Keith Arrington of Carrollton, Ga.

Arrington hauled McDonald’s hamburgers traveling in a big rig on Highway 431 every day.

“It’s been a lot of lives lost on this highway and I’ve seen a few of them,” said Arrington.

Arrington says he’s even pulled people out of wrecked vehicles at this intersection and lost a loved one on Highway 431.

“My wife lost her dad on this highway right after they four-laned it.”

The 18-million-dollar project to increase the lanes was completed in April 2011.

“The more speeding picked on this highway it got even worse after they four-laned it.”

We hit the road to get a feel of the road and as you can see the red-light signs are posted with flashers around, but drivers tell us that’s just not enough.

“Maybe they need a bigger warning sign.”

Road signs warning drivers there’s a stop sign ahead sits about 50 feet from the red light traveling north on Highway 431 at the top of the hill.

“If you don’t see that speed limit change then you’re not going to realize that you do need to decrease your vehicle speed,” said Sergeant Jeremy Burkett with ALEA.

“People have these phones - you’ve got these iPad and smart devices, but you absolutely cannot be on a smart device while you’re operating a motor vehicle.”

Sergeant Burkett could not answer specific questions regarding accidents on Highway 431 and 165 in particular.

We reached out to the Alabama Department of Transportation. Their response to our open records request states, in part quote:

We didn’t stop there. Phenix City Police releasing these numbers to us from the last five years:

  • 99 Accidents with injuries at the intersection
  • 23 Accidents with Property Damage
  • 2 Accidents with Fatalities
  • 1 Accident due to DUI

We also checked our News Leader 9 archives and the accidents we’ve covered on Highway 431 near Alabama 165. A multi-car pile-up left several injured happened in 2012. A vehicle t-boned another causing it to flip in the air.

We were on scene in 2013, when first year Russell County High School teacher Wileatha Brown was killed instantly when her car collided with an 18-wheeler.

In 2019, Phenix City police worked 72 accidents on Highway 431, 7 were deadly.

“Most people are running 65 to 70 through this intersection because the speed doesn’t change.”

The answer to the problem on Highway 431 is slow down.

Roslyn also reached out to Representative Chris Blackshear via email about the deadly road.

We received a response from Rep. Blackshear on Friday, June 2:

“ It’s unfortunate at the number of serious vehicle accidents we’ve seen over the years at this intersection, most of which have been attributed to speed and distracted drivers.

ALDOT has done a good job of attempting to notify oncoming traffic of the approaching intersection with flashing red light notification signs, rumble strips and delaying the changing of the light itself.

We continue to urge drivers to obey the posted speed limit and to please stay off your cellular devices. These two actions (speed and distracted drivers) are the leading cause of the accidents we’re seeing on many of our state roads today.”

Representative Chris Blackshear

News Leader 9 Investigates will continue to follow this story and keep you updated.