Would a traffic light have saved two lives?

Would a traffic light have saved two lives? »Play Video
(Photo: Mike Warner, KATU News)

FOREST GROVE, Ore. -- After two college students died in a crash on Monday, engineers plan to reconsider if they should add a traffic light to a busy intersection with a dangerous reputation.

Kiden Dilla, 18, and Ayan Osman, 19, died Monday morning when they turned into the path of a truck at the intersection of Highway 47 and Verboort Road in Forest Grove, according to Oregon State Police.

Both women lived in Portland and were students at Pacific University.

Nearly 10 years before Monday's tragedy, the Oregon Department of Transportation considered adding traffic lights to the intersection but ultimately decided against it.

Instead, engineers lowered the speed limit from 55 mph to 50 mph, improved lighting, added rumble strips and installed a flashing warning sign, according to ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton.

Why no traffic light?

"It would likely create more problems than it solved," wrote Hamilton in an email. "This is not unusual."

Consider what engineers found after they added a traffic light to the intersection of Highway 213 and Leland Road.

Before the traffic light, there were about 4 crashes a year, according to data provided by ODOT.

After the state installed a traffic light in 2001, the number of crashes increased -- now police respond to about 5 crashes a year.

It's not possible to perfectly compare two intersections, but Hamilton says Highway 213/Leland Road and Highway 47/Verboort Road share many similarities.

Why would a traffic light make an intersection less safe?

It makes sense to traffic experts, says Hamilton. He says the crashes are less serious than before and now involve more rear-end accidents.

Rear-end accidents are typically less deadly than a crash involving a turn, which is what police say happened to the college students on Monday morning in Forest Grove.

Hamilton pledges ODOT will re-evaluate the intersection once Oregon State Police release the results of its investigation.

"You're damn right we will," said Hamilton on the phone.

There have been about 4 crashes a year at the intersection.

That's enough for it to have earned a dangerous reputation.

"They said stay away from that intersection," said Nicole George, a sophomore at Pacific University, who says her aunt and uncle warned her to take another route to school a year before Kiden and Ayan's deaths.

"They told me there have been a couple of accidents. They were just worried," she said.

Nicole is a member of Pacific's Black Student Union, a small organization on campus which was co-founded by Kiden and Ayan last fall.

"I'm still in disbelief," said another co-founder, Ashley. "There are no words."