Janesville40.8°

Cleaning up, crash after crash

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Catherine W. Idzerda
August 19, 2009
— Cherie and Clint Cookson have had a semi towed through their front yard.

They've had hazardous waste in the ditch next to their house.


They've had strangers scream at them.


Why?


Because the Cooksons have the misfortune of living at 4108 W. Westward Lane across from the T-intersection of the Highway 11 bypass and West Court Street.


"We stopped counting at 45 accidents," said Cherie Cookson.


Here's what happens: Motorists zip down the bypass at 55 to 65 mph. The bypass ends in a T-intersection. Despite a stop sign and flashing red light, people blow through the intersection, through a ditch and out into the cornfield next to the Cooksons' home.


Or, the cars go crashing into the Cooksons' yard.


Most recently, at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, to be exact, a car driven by Latrice N. White, 29, Madison, went through the intersection, collided with the Cookson's sister-in-law's car, smashed into the Cooksons' motorhome and then hit their son's car.


White and a passenger in the car, Joseph A. Gunter, 41, were not injured. The passenger was cited for not wearing a seatbelt. Drugs and alcohol were not believed to be a factor in the crash, according to the Rock County Sheriff's Office.


Still, things are better than they used to be.


The Cooksons' troubles began when Highway 11 was rerouted to bypass Janesville. A part of Hayner Road became Highway 11 in November 2002. Along with that designation came a wider road, a 55-mph speed limit and a lot more traffic.


In 2005, after a story in the Gazette, the state put a flashing red light at the intersection.


"There used to be two or three a month," Cookson said. "Now, there's two or three every couple of months."


Not all of those accidents are reported. Sometimes people just back out of the cornfield and drive away.


Police encouraged the Cooksons to contact them when accidents happen, but that has its drawbacks, too.


People often leave the scene of an accident when they've been drinking.


"One woman came to the door and screamed at us because we called the police," Cookson said.


The Cooksons often end up cleaning up accident debris, and once the Department of Natural Resources had to remove diesel fuel and dirt from a nearby ditch.


Another time, a semi was removed through their front yard, taking out trees the Cooksons had planted.


They're tired of it, and their insurance company isn't happy about it, either.


Before the red flashing light was installed, an uninsured driver when through the intersection and hit the Cooksons' pony barn.


Even if the driver in the most recent accident is insured, it's still going to cost the Cooksons money.


The motorhome was older, but the Cooksons have put a lot of money into rehabing the inside and replacing the radiator and other parts.


"I bet we won't get $6,000 for it," Cookson said.


Clint Cookson is thinking about suing the state.


Cherie Cookson just wants something to be done before someone is killed.


"I don't want to be my corner's keeper," she said.



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