County road gets reduced speed limit

A fatal wreck nearly three years ago and other recent activity on a county road near the Shieldstown Covered Bridge have prompted county officials to reduce the speed limit.

The three-member Jackson County Board of Commissioners recently amended an ordinance to lower the maximum speed on County Road 300N from 55 mph to 30 mph.

That speed limit is for the road in Hamilton Township beginning at County Road 200N and extending 1,688 feet northeast.

Warren Martin, Jackson County highway superintendent, said 30 mph is a good speed limit for that road since it’s near the East Fork White River between Seymour and Brownstown. The paved road has a couple of curves before turning into a gravel road.

The area was the scene of a wreck Dec. 5, 2012, in which Brooke Hawn, 16, of Seymour died. She was the passenger in a vehicle that left County Road 250E, went into the river and landed on its top.

Two other Seymour teenagers, Tyler Ross and Brett Sparks, escaped the vehicle through broken windows, swam to the river bank and called for help from a nearby house.

Ross, who was driving the vehicle at the time of the wreck, later was charged with reckless homicide and operating a vehicle without ever having received a license as a result of the crash and received seven years in jail.

Police determined speed and reckless driving were key contributing factors in the wreck, and none of the three were wearing a seat belt.

Commissioner Tom Joray asked Martin and Jackson County Sheriff Mike Carothers about installing some type of protection, such as a guardrail or reflectors, along the road near the river.

“A guardrail would be fine; however, we’re going to have issues when the water gets up over it, we’re going to have a collection point (of debris),” Carothers said.

Warren said it would be a difficult spot to hold a guardrail because the river makes a bend and shoots right into a bank.

“The water comes across there so hard and so fast that I’m afraid you’re going to be picking your guardrail up out in a field and replacing it every time,” Martin said.

Maintaining and stabilizing the bank could be a better solution, he said, but then the Department of Natural Resources would have to get involved.

“And all of their requirements and all of their restrictions, it would be a fairly expensive undertaking,” Martin said.

He said adding reflectors in the area may be the best solution.