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Sign Placement in Epworth Crash

EPWORTH, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- Family and friends are gathering Thursday and Friday to remember four teens killed in an utility vehicle crash over the weekend.

Authorities say the 14-year-old boys died when the Gator they were riding was hit by a driver who ran a stop sign in rural Dubuque County. The crash remains under investigation.

The Dubuque County Engineer calls the 862 page Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices the "Bible" when it comes to road sign placement. The issue that is that installing the signs has so much to do with each unique circumstance that it's anything but an exact science.

Crosses at the intersection of Hartbecke and East Pleasant Grove Roads serve as a somber stand in for a group of 14-year-olds who just hours before they died were just being regular kids.

"They were on the wresting, little bobcat float, throwing water balloons, just normal little kids and by 1:30 they were gone," said Alyssa Kraphl, who saw the boys in a parade earlier that day.

It reminds Alyssa that, "anything can happen in a split second," she said, standing near the boys memorial.

Driver say a split second is all they have to notice the stop sign that the Dubuque County Sheriff says a pickup truck went through before hitting the boys' all-terrain vehicle.

"When I was coming over the hill, it was hard to see it and I said right away, 'I see how this could happen so easily' because it's placed actually really badly," said Kendall Kraphl.

The elevation of the road means the stop sign just barely peeks out underneath another sign.

"You can't see the stop sign until you're right there," said Alyssa.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices says "one of the factors considered when determining appropriate spacing shall be the posted or 85th percentile speed". The speed limit on the road is 55 mph. Even at that, drivers cover that last few hundred feet before the stop sign in just a few seconds. That and a handful of other factors could mean potential changes to the intersection.

"It would be a decision that we would make here at the local level to move things, relocate, put up new signs just adjust things in general," said Dubuque County Engineer Bret Wilkinson.

If needed, the county can call in a state-wide safety committee for its opinion. A timetable for decision about changes depends on the investigation into the crash, leaving Alyssa to think about the parade earlier on the day the boys died.

"You have the last good memory I guess," said Alyssa. "It's a good feeling but it's also just not."

The Iowa Department of Transportation says in the past ten years there have been three recorded accidents at that location with only two very minor injuries.
 
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