New sign marks fatal crash sitePractice of posting signs dates to 1989.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
A road sign warning people of deadly crashes now marks the spot where a 9-year-old Mitchell girl was killed in a two-vehicle accident
Called “Think” signs, the sign also bears the words “Why Die?”
The sign was erected recently at the intersection of First Avenue and Duff Street. Iszabella “Bella” Morgan was killed in a crash at the intersection March 24. Michael Sedlmeier, the man driving the vehicle that struck the SUV Morgan was in, pleaded guilty in June to manslaughter and third-offense driving under the influence and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The state Department of Transportation has installed fatal accident markers since 1989. It places them at locations where fatal accidents have occurred as a way to make motorists aware of how serious drunken driving is and how dangerous it is to drink and drive, according to the DOT. Nearly one out of every two fatality markers are linked to alcohol involvement.
The cost per sign is about $38, not including the installation, which is done by whatever agency is in charge of the road where the fatal accident occurred. The Department of Public Safety’s Office of Accident Records compiles fatal crash records and notifies the DOT of the deadly crashes. It then prepares the signs and contacts family members.
Mitchell Traffic Division employees erected the sign, which was sent to the city by the DOT, according to Public Safety Department Chief Lyndon Overweg. The city did not ask for the sign, nor did it clear it with Morgan’s family, which has the right to prevent the sign from being put in place, according to Overweg.
“We don’t get involved with that,” he said.
The family was contacted, however, and did not object to the sign, according to the DOT. Family members must allow the signs to be placed, and if they change their minds, the signs are removed. If the signs are knocked down, stolen or removed for any reason, they are only replaced if the family asks for a new sign.
The state erects signs on the state highway system and furnishes all signs to be placed on county and township roads and city streets. One sign is erected for each person killed, with each sign mounted on a separate post at approximately 10-foot intervals if there was more than one fatality, in a line one foot inside the right-of-way.
A Des Moines, Iowa, insurance company designed and copyrighted the sign, which it used in that state from 1951 until the 1960s. State Auto, formerly known as State Automobile and Casualty Underwriters Inc., allows the state of South Dakota to use the design.