published Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Chickamauga parent starts petition to fix dangerous curve after teen's death

Beth Oliver stands Wednesday near where Jordan Queen was recently involved in a fatal car crash along Lee Clarkson Road just east of Chickamauga, Ga. Oliver has started a petition to change the section of road where Queen crashed to help prevent future fatalities.
Beth Oliver stands Wednesday near where Jordan Queen was recently involved in a fatal car crash along Lee Clarkson Road just east of Chickamauga, Ga. Oliver has started a petition to change the section of road where Queen crashed to help prevent future fatalities.
Photo by Alex Washburn.

LEE CLARKSON ACCIDENTS

2011: 5 accidents, 1 fatality, 1 serious injury (to date)

2010: 5 accidents, 3 injuries

2009: 3 accidents, 2 minor injuries, 1 visible injury

2008: 1 accident, 2 people injured

2007: 2 accidents, no injuries

2006: 1 accident, minor injury

Source: Georgia State Patrol

CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — Past a sharp bend on Lee Clarkson Road, two giant trees stand near one another, each with visible scars.

One tree marks the place where 21-year-old Jared Bean was killed seven years ago; a steel cross and flowers now stand at the spot. Nearby, fresh burn marks along the other tree's trunk and shards of glass at the base show where 17-year-old Gordon Lee High School student Jordan Queen was killed last week when his car sped out of control and slammed into the tree.

State numbers show 17 wrecks have occurred on Lee Clarkson Road in the last five years, nearly all within the sharp curve. Most of the crashes involved minor to severe injuries, Georgia State Patrol statistics show.

Those figures don't include wrecks worked by Chickamauga police, ones that took place on the section of road inside city limits and didn't involve fatalities. But Police Chief Micheal Haney said Wednesday he doesn't recall any significant wrecks in the past couple of years.

Days before Jordan was killed, another Gordon Lee student, Kassidy Blevins, lost control of her vehicle in the curve and flipped into a ditch, injuring herself, Georgia State Patrol spokesman Gordy Wright said.

The accidents and Jordan's recent death have sparked an online campaign from residents who want Walker County to widen the road or remove the trees at the curve.

On Monday, Beth Oliver-Ibanez, the parent of a Gordon Lee student, began a petition on Facebook, hoping to gain support that she can take to county officials. By Wednesday, more than 500 people had joined the group called "Fix Lee Clarkson Road."

"Enough is enough," Oliver-Ibanez said. "It should have been fixed years ago."

Jordan's mother, Suzanne Queen, said she's glad there's a petition to improve the road.

"I do think something needs to be done," she said. "My child is one of the numbers now on the roadway."

But Walker officials say the road was noted as a problem spot years ago and paved with granite instead of asphalt to make the surface less slick.

"If they're going to speed, there is nothing we can do," Walker County Emergency Services Director David Ashburn said.

ACCIDENTS

Speed and a wet surface are two common factors in most wrecks on Lee Clarkson Road, Georgia State Patrol reports show.

Some drivers moved through the curve too fast or met another car in their lane and yanked the steering wheel too hard, spinning out of control. Most then slammed into a tree or fence, reports show.

While wet surfaces often were the cause, one wreck in January 2008 that injured two people happened in daylight when the weather was crisp and clear. This past January, two wrecks took place in one day.

Officials say it was beginning to rain Nov. 9 when Jordan, driving from school, sped into the curve, spun out and hit the tree. He died 40 minutes later at a hospital.

It's not clear whether Kassidy was speeding when she wrecked.

Ashburn said the road's speed limit is 35 mph, and officials have the state-mandated signs posted on each side of the sharp curve. But after Jordan's death, the county posted a 25 mph sign at the entrance of the curve and a warning sign farther back.

"We put more out there hoping people will pay attention," Ashburn said.

PETITION

Lee Clarkson Road is a main path to the entrance of Gordon Lee High School. Principal Clay Crowder knows the curve is dangerous for students, but he's not sure there is a simple solution.

"I wish I knew an answer to make everything safe," he said.

Proposed fixes include adding a shoulder in the curve, widening the road, cutting the trees along the curve or adding speed bumps.

Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said she wasn't aware of the problem curve on Lee Clarkson.

"I didn't realize we had a questionable dangerous curve issue," she said.

Heiskell said she gladly would accept the petition from Oliver-Ibanez, but she doesn't know if any of the suggestions will be feasible or where the money to implement them would come from.

Walker County already has identified 12 road projects, including a dangerous curve on Johnson Road, that could be addressed if county residents vote on next year's ballot to hike their sales tax by 1 cent. The tax is part of a statewide transportation referendum.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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rolando said...

This happens over and over again. Trees, ditches, fences are NOT the problem; those are stationary. Stop blaming inanimate objects for a moment's carelessness or poor driving habits; the tree didn't jump out there.

The problem is the drivers' ignorance of or disregard for natural, physical laws and forces. You go too fast around a corner, you end up off the road. Simple. Especially if the road is wet. Break those laws at your peril.

Speed bumps is the a good answer. Multiple speed bumps approaching and through the curve. Cutting speed-reducing grooves across the road to shake the car to pieces at high speed is another approach. A third is what is used in other highly traveled roads where the cars/pickups/SUVs cut the corner and head-on someone -- raised concrete center-line markers that vibrate the whole vehicle when they cross over them.

Climb on the Driver's Ed teachers who fail to teach proper driving techniques.

Instead of doing things to encourage even faster speeds around the curve -- like widening the road -- or cutting down the trees [which would solve nothing], line the shoulder of the roadway around the curve with those tall concrete dividers used in the middle of freeways or along construction sites.

You cannot save stupid or untrained drivers who think they are "bulletproof". Violate one of Nature's laws often enough and you will die. I suspect most all those who died on that curve traveled it regularly. The odds caught up with them.

Requiescant In Pace

November 17, 2011 at 5:45 a.m.
librul said...

Good grief people - just slow down, quit texting and use your head for something other than a cell phone receptacle. Sorry for your loss, but chalk this one up to teenage carelessness and/or inexperience and let's move on. People are driving like idiots in every corner of the country - particularly teenagers, even more particularly, female teenagers. If you drive every day, you know it's true. We can't flatten every hill, straighten every curve or put a stop sign at every driveway. And since our country is bankrupt, we can't put enough radar cops or speed cameras out there to enforce laws already on the books - and if we did, there would be a chorus of libertarian cranks bitching about it anyway.

November 17, 2011 at 8:06 a.m.

Good to see librul preaching personal responsibility. This time.

November 17, 2011 at 8:37 a.m.
RRobinson said...

Wow Rolando and Librul!! You have got to be kidding me! What a way to start my day! I agree that speed and inexperience was more than likely the cause of many accidents on this road. HOWEVER, how can you be so cold and unfeeling? A teenager has died, for whatever the reason. Family members are grieving. A young man will never be able to experience the things in life that we all hope our children are able to do.
Yes, people do need to be more careful. Stay off the cell phone, don't text, don't try to soothe a crying baby in the back seat. A countless number of things can take your eye off the road. I am guilty of doing something stupid while driving. Are you two the only perfect drivers around?
Like Rolando, I think speed humps are good solution. I WILL sign this petition to fix Lee Clarkson Road. It may help save a life in the future.

November 17, 2011 at 9:41 a.m.
chickmom4 said...

Rolando and Librul would you be saying the same thing if this was a middle-aged adult that had been killed? I agree with RRobinson in that how can you be so cold and unfeeling? would you be saying this if it had been your child? for once put yourself in another's shoes... these parents have lost their child, a child has lost a big brother, friends have lost a friend who never had a negative word to say about anyone and encouraged his teammates on the wresting team. attention is trying to be brought to this problem so that maybe it does not happen again...let's fix the problem instead of constantly laying blame...more driver's ed for our children in our schools, raise the age of legal driving, and extend the period of a learner's peremit from one year to possibly two.

November 17, 2011 at 10:17 a.m.
librul said...

Nobody's unfeeling .. facts are facts, it's why they are described as cold and hard.

November 17, 2011 at 10:38 a.m.
dao1980 said...

RR and chickmom, do you want nanny state to pad all of the sharp corners in your house as well?

Every time you ask big bro gov. to "fix" anything you feel is "dangerous", the more you'll owe in monetary terms, as well as personal liberty.

Kinda like the friend you never want to ask a favor of, because you know they'll hold it over your head waaaaay past the point of repayment... yep that's the way ol' nanny state will always do it.

Why not just have fun and be careful, and of course deal with the consequences (however terrible) when you mess up?

With your mentality, we would need to flatten every inch of soil in this land just prevent anyone from ever falling off a cliff.

Not to say that there aren't inherent flaws in any single way of thinking (mine on the top of the list), but I have to agree with librul and rolando that personal responsibility should rule the day.

None of this should go without saying:

I'm sorry for your loss.

November 17, 2011 at 11:09 a.m.
CBR549 said...

Sometimes it amazes me how unfeeling, cold and mean hearted some people can be ! To You…Rolando, librul and dao1980… Talk is cheap! I would like to see you to drive this particular curve at 35mph and see what happens! This has nothing to do with government and elected officials doing anything but their jobs! Your comments are sarcastic, antagonistic and utterly ridiculous! My gosh, people, statics don’t lie! To David Ashburn and Bebe Heiskell, your comments regarding this matter are completely shameful and unfounded. Bebe … If… you were unaware of this issue… then maybe you need to do a little research and make yourself aware of people being injured or killed in your county and do something about it rather than… attempting to accomplish your political agenda! Making a statement like, “You gladly would accept the petition from Oliver-Ibanez, but you don’t know if any of the suggestions will be feasible or where the money to implement them would come from.” is not the way to get re-elected. All David can say is "If they're going to speed, there is nothing we can do"! Assuming that speed and carelessness was the cause for all these accidents is again, ridiculous. A good young man is dead, let this be the last accident on that road! Instead of playing the blame or politics game, get together and do something to fix the problem! Prevent this from happening to anyone else! As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to contribute to getting that road fixed and… without raising taxes!

November 17, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.
dao1980 said...

How about a four wheel drift through it in the power, at fifty or sixty mph.

Would that be enough show you that the mean ol' curve isn't at fault?

Of course, since it's a public road, and such shenanigans are illegal on public roads.... and I myself.. never break the law ;)

CBR, I can't help but feel like you would have us all limited to say... CBR650's just because you can't handle a CBR1000.

If you really want to make a difference, you should petition for stricter licensing requirements.

Heck, in Finland, you have to spend something like three hundred hours training on a skid pad before you can even apply for a drivers license.

My intent is not to disrespect the deceased, and my point is more grounded in the philosophy of free life and the importance of personal responsibility, than any desire to belittle those who are no longer with us due to control mistakes with motor vehicles... that includes some who were of the best riders and rally drivers I have had the privilege to call my friends who are also no longer with us.

Again, sorry for your loss.

November 17, 2011 at 1:47 p.m.
grayhermia said...

I'm all for speed bumps through there. It's a tricky spot even if you are going the speed limit and not playing with your phone. And perhaps the county would have money to fix it if Bebe would stop blowing our money on pointless things. Just like in LaFayette where too many of our roads need work but hey, we're going to get the airport snazzy and put a fence around it...or all of those jet planes that want to land...in LaFayette.... The money is there but the Commissioner needs to appropriate it better. Speed bumps are annoying but at least they work.

November 17, 2011 at 3:37 p.m.
rwg63 said...

I think people just need to slow down, I live on a very busy country road and people speed down our road as well, If they wreck; I'm sorry but I just don't feel bad for speeders who wreck, I do feel bad for others who are involved at no fault of their own,( Do to speeders). People who get caught TEXING & driving should loose there driving privileges, there is no reason to text & drive period. It’s bad enough they use their mobile phones while they drive. (What did we do before mobile phones), we stopped & found a pay phone… so just stop & use your mobile phone. Sincerely: A concerned citizen

November 17, 2011 at 3:51 p.m.
rolando said...

First off, chickmom, my children were trained in all aspects of safely controlling a motor vehicle under all driving conditions...essentially all of it hands-on. A dirt field -- or an empty mall parking lot -- in the rain/snow makes a dandy skid pan. And they are on private property for the most part.

That includes offensive driving techniques -- 40-mph U-Turns, etc -- to escape car-jackers, or other thugs. A couple tricks of the trade -- 1) never willingly brake on a curve...you lose traction; 2) typically, curves can be safely rounded at double the suggested speed minus 10mph...if you are at all competent -- and my kids are.

So the chances of my kids making those driving mistakes and dying is slim to none.

Nature's laws are hard and fast...and uncaring. Violate them at your peril.

November 17, 2011 at 4:05 p.m.
rolando said...

dao, you sound like you have gotten some training...or at least excellent advice.

Mine comes from Gov't Protective Services folks [and others] as well as mandatory military annual drivers training for 25 years. That and I have always pushed the envelope...and absolutely know my machines.

November 17, 2011 at 4:07 p.m.
estone said...

If any of your family was involved I feel like your take on this issue would be different. If a speed bump or guard rail will save a life then why wouldnt you be for it? To the ones that are stating its all the drivers fault do you live in Chickamauga, drive this road, or have a child that has to drive this road to get to and from school? I am not personally connected to the young man that recently passed due to this hazardous curve. However unlike large cities Chickamauga is a close knit town and everyone is effected by the loss of a child. We care enough about our chickamauga families and there safety to stand up and say enough is enough.

That being said I am all for free speech and you voicing your "opinion" but have respect for the Chickamauga community and the family that just lost there little boy and keep it to yourself. You wanna help? Help us get the road fixed so we dont lose anyone else when something so small and minor would fix the issue.

November 17, 2011 at 4:21 p.m.
ProudGLHSmom said...

I am blown away by the lack of respect and sympathy for those who have lost their lives and the families that remain. Estone, you said it the best.

I grew up in Chickamauga. Everyone knows everyone and genuinely care for folks. The kids of the FFA at GLHS raked leaves for disabled veterans last week. It really is Mayberry and we like it that way. The family is hurting, the student body is hurting and a young man’s life was cut way to short. You can’t marginalize that…not uncaring, sarcastic posters or politicians.

Let’s help out each other by making the road safer and of course obeying the rules of the road. My daughter drives that road every day…it could have been her that evening. I will contribute to improving the safety of that curve and I don’t even live in Walker County.

November 17, 2011 at 5:45 p.m.
Rfarmer said...

Couple of things:

Unless you are familiar with this road, you are too ignorant to comment on the hazardous curve.

Additionally, the numbers in the accident table are incorrect - there was a fatality in 2010. A woman crossed the center line into the path of a utility truck and was killed in the resulting wreck.

November 17, 2011 at 6:26 p.m.
GLHSstudent2013 said...

I doesn't matter if your child has had amazing driving techniques. When it's your time to go, it's your time to go. I might be young and you can say whatever you want about this post, but most of the above post are heartless. I knew Jordan and I know Kassidy and they are two Amazing people. I'm a driver myself and the most skilled driver could still have an issue with this curve Until you have experienced this road on a rainy day or not you shouldn't judge. Mrs. Oliver started this petition to try and keep others safe,and I'm totally behind her.

November 17, 2011 at 6:40 p.m.
stormy4145 said...

Rolando, when YOUR child goes the correct speed limit on a rainy day (Such a Jordan was) and hydroplanes into a tree and passes away what will you say huh? Was speed a factor? Hmmmm no, was carelessness a factor? Not exactly. Be careful what you put on here, your not the perfect driver out there, I'm not, no body is. Maybe if it was your child or friend you would consider this as well.

November 17, 2011 at 7:10 p.m.
ginagirl43 said...

It's not the curves' fault. Lack of driving skills combined with teenagers. Just like here in Chattanooga, with the S curves on Hixson Pike. Stop blaming the roads.

November 17, 2011 at 7:32 p.m.
GLHSstudent2013 said...

It's ADULTS as well. Last time I check they aren't perfect drivers.

November 17, 2011 at 8 p.m.
stormy4145 said...

Not all teenagers are bad drivers. I know some pretty awful adult drivers. How about stop blaming the younger people. Ive almost been hit head on by an ADULT in a big SUV coming over in my lane while I was going slow around that curve, not to mention how many times Ive been bright lighted around it when my brights werent even on, by other large vehicles, those ones against my little car I'm sure we know who'd loose. The curve is like a blind spot you cant see around it. Why bother commenting even if you dont drive on this road regularly or know someone who does? Why dont you go down there and look at the spray paint on the road and see what happens when the road gets slick. That couldve been your child. Stop blaming it on the younger generations, not all of us are "poorly taught" drivers.

November 17, 2011 at 8:17 p.m.
GLHSmom2013 said...

Just a little FYI, the student that was killed last week wasn't speeding, texting or reckless driving. I agree with stormy, not all teenagers are bad drivers. Some adults don't pay attention to what they're doing while driving, example I was hit head on by a lady while she was playing with her dog in the vehicle.

November 17, 2011 at 8:48 p.m.
GLStudent2013 said...

Librul, I have gone to school with Jordan Queen for years, so have alot of other people at my school. For you to say something like that is absolutely CRUEL! We just lost a friend, a classmate, and an AMAZING person. "Sorry for your loss, but chalk this one up to teenage carelessness and/or inexperience and let's move on". MOVE ON! Are you serious? If you lost a friend to a driving accident, (or any other was for that matter) would you want someone to say that to you? No. He wasn't texting. The roads were slick and he over corrected. Jordan was one of the most kind, caring, and respectful people I ever knew. I feel like your comment was a direct insult to him, and I do NOT take kindly to it. Your comment was heartless, rude, and unnecessary. P.S. The thing about particularly teenage females, thats rude and sexist. I'm no feminist but you sir are extremley judgmental. Not all women are bad drivers.

November 17, 2011 at 10:08 p.m.
BravesDave said...

Sorry for your loss, GLStudent. May he rest in peace and be remembered by his family and friends forever. This was a tragedy.

November 17, 2011 at 11:21 p.m.
chickaflick said...

First of all, I'm really sad that anyone has had accidents or passed away on a stretch of dangerous road. Any loss is a tragic and sad loss.

It is also unrealistic for people in general to expect that teenagers are going to be perfect drivers and when you add a high school and a dangerous stretch of road to the same equation there is bound to be trouble. In fairness, I have driven this road going the specified speed limit and it was still too fast. I notice that they've lowered it to 25 and that is more appropriate but they need to add blinking lights to the warning to really enforce it, draw the drivers attention in the dark, and especially in the fog which there happens to be a lot of in the fall and spring months. In fact, the night of the accident there was heavy fog which I notice was not mentioned. I was driving in the area, and there were sections of the roads where the fog was so dense I couldn't even see the middle line. The curve is misleading, and in inclement weather, it's a death trap.

Unless you've driven this road, then your opinion is really invalid. We can all sit in our chairs and preach about road safety until the sun sets but when people die in the same spot repeatedly (this is the second one now- too many) then there is a problem that we need to address.

November 18, 2011 at 7:19 a.m.
dao1980 said...

"Unless you've driven this road, then your opinion is really invalid."

chickflick, is the pavement there made from dark matter? Is there a secret trap door that drops suddenly? Is there a yeti that waits in the bushes until you are in the apex to run out and push you off the road??! (That last one I have actually used when my paint guy asked why I felt the need to scrape up the new body on our autocross car;)

OR!.. is it just a tight turn on some old pavement...

Folks are always wanting their special part of road to be the real "dead mans curve".

No offense meant to those in the room that are elder, and no offense meant to any lovely ladies in the room as well.... but I would venture to guess that the ones who are offended at the nature of... well.. nature, are portly older female types who's poor understanding of cause and effect is reflected in many other frustrated aspects of their personal lives.

Wow.. y'all are gonna go after me for that one for sure, sorry I'm such a terrible person.

Oh well, have a safe and fun Fridee!!!!

And once again, sorry for your loss.

November 18, 2011 at 10:19 a.m.
GLHSstudent2013 said...

Yes, people have accidents and it can be caused by many things. Trees, ditches, and whatever else that may get in someones way could be a problem as well. No they don't "jump" out in front of you, but some issues could be resolved if they weren't where they are placed. Guard rails could possibly help, but that might cause further issues. No one needs to come "pad" every corner in our houses just to make us feel safe. There are people who have lost loved ones and this might be their way of getting their voices heard. I had a car riding my tail on that road the other day and it was an adult. I was going the correct speed limit, but they failed to do just that. The police are trying to enforce the speed limit more and I am grateful. I've always been afraid of this road even before I was aware of any accidents. Needless to say, people have their opinions and they will express them. There is no right or wrong response to this issue. There are no perfect drivers. There are no perfect roads. but we can try to be safer drivers on tricky roads.

November 18, 2011 at 4:39 p.m.
rolando said...

If Jordan was indeed hydroplaning he was driving well over the appropriate speed limit for a rainy day, stormy. Posted speed limits are set under normal driving conditions -- clear, dry, daytime, etc. No matter what, sliding out on a wet road is due to excessive speed [regardless of the posted limit] or exceedingly poor driving techniques [presuming the vehicle was properly maintained].

Again, assuming a properly maintained vehicle, any single-car accident is the driver's fault. Period. Her/she did something wrong.

Tennessee has many, many curves just like the one you described. If it were up to me, all curves like that would have a guardrail right down the yellow line to keep those idiotic corner-cutting A$--oles on their own side of the road. Please forgive the language; those guys/gals irritate me to no end.

As I said in my first post,

Requiescant In Pace

November 18, 2011 at 5:30 p.m.
msbooks said...

It always amazes me how quickly people will jump on the bandwagon to blame the victim. To say or imply that Jordan deserved to die because he was not a perfect driver is asinine at best. I agree that teenagers are inexperienced and often make careless mistakes; however, I was a teenager once too and do not feel that I deserved to die because of those mistakes. Don't overlook the fact that many experienced adult drivers are killed every day in car accidents. If fixing or making adjustments to this road saves even one life then isn't it worth doing?

November 18, 2011 at 11:42 p.m.
stormy4145 said...

Wow Rolando, the curve is set at 25 mph you can hydroplane at the slowest possible speed. Why? BECAUSE IT IS A DOWN HILL SHARP CURVE. You need to know what your talking about before you start commenting this and that running your mouth about stuff you dont know anything about. We are still grieving over a lossed friend, and the whole school agrees with me and GLHSstudent2013. I understand everyone is open to opinions but I hope for once that you go through the pain this whole community felt. That curve is dangerous. And letting 18 wheelers drive on it? Is that any better? While your safe and happy in your little home not having to worry about this road some people are actually trying to make a change to protect others, we dont need people as heartless and rude as you and libral and that dao1980 trying to stop us. Go drive on that road. Better yet, park somewhere and stand on the side. The people you do see going slow youll see how easy it is to loose control, especially top heavy vehicles going the correct speed limit. And to the guy who made the sexist comment: Insurance is higher on teenage males because they are more likley to have accidents. None of the girls I know have the capibility to text and drive or brush their hair or apply make-up because it makes them feel unsafe. Start having some kind of emotions/feelings, and be more openminded. I dont care if you hate me or what anyone thinks of this, we are speaking out for our whole community, atleast they will listen better than some of you on here.

November 19, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.
crazyhorse78 said...

Okay, people keep on saying facts are facts, teenagers are stupid ignorant drivers; well you look at the facts. There are staring hard at you at the top of the page. There have been all sorts of accidents on that road plus two deaths. It is a bad road that i have personally come very close to having an accident on. I was not speeding, but its a blind turn and at night someone can EASILY be blinded. This isn't just teenagers. In any case nobody is a perfect driver and sadly accidents happen to everybody and they can happen at any time. This road is just dangerous altogether and if you don't believe me, you should drive your happy self up here and drive it AT 25 miles because even then there's the danger of being blind. And that was cold and heartless to say Jordan was just a stupid teenager. He was not an idiot and he wasn't some punk. He was a good person. But please don't turn this petition away. We nearly lost another classmate from that road. Enough is enough.

November 19, 2011 at 7:38 p.m.
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