Commissioners study deadly road

Published 6:39 pm Saturday, February 20, 2010

GATESVILLE — Covering a short three miles, White Oak Road appears as quiet and peaceful as any other two-lane strip of asphalt that winds its way through the Gates County countryside.

However, this particular road has a dark side.

It has been the scene of numerous accidents, some ending tragically with loss of life.

Over the past 20 years, five individuals have died in motor vehicle mishaps on White Oak Road.

Two of those deaths occurred exactly one month ago when two young Gates County teenagers were killed as the result of a one vehicle accident on Jan. 17.

Now, a Gates County Commissioner is spearheading an effort to address the dangers associated with White Oak Road.

At their meeting earlier this month, Commissioner Wade Askew of Eure suggested the board seek the assistance of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) in lowering the speed limit on the entire stretch of White Oak Road – RP 1113 that links NC 137 just east of Eure with US 158 at the White Oak community between Roduco and Gatesville.

“Having one death on this road is one too many in my book,” Askew said.

“There have been five on that road over the last 20 years.

Of course we all know of the most recent wreck, one that killed two innocent children.

We need to do something to help lessen the severity of accidents on that road.”

Askew suggested a letter be sent from the commissioners to DOT, one requesting a 45 mph speed limit on the entire length of White Oak Road. He said a portion of the road is already posted at 45 mph while the reminder is 55 mph.

“I’ve had a lot of citizens who either live on that road or travel that road on a regular basis ask for this,” Askew said, referencing lowering the speed limit.

While discussing the issue, the board agreed that a study needs to be performed in an effort to supply DOT with information on White Oak Road, including the number of homes, school bus stops and width of the road.

The issue may be discussed again at the next regular meeting of the Commissioners, scheduled for March 3.

Meanwhile, the fate of the driver of the Jan. 17 fatal crash now lies in the hands of the District Attorney. North Carolina Highway Patrol investigators have turned over all their findings of the accident, including a re-creation of the crash scene, to DA Frank Parrish. NCHP Trooper Glenn Bunch originally investigated the accident. His report revealed that 35-year-old Alexandra Drake of Gates was operating a 2002 Buick passenger car, traveling west on White Oak Road less than one-half mile east of Hill Lane Road (RP 1122) at the time of the 11:20 p.m. crash.

Drake, along with her daughter, 13-year-old Whitney Drake, and Casey Jenkins, 14, of Eure, were all pinned inside the vehicle. Whitney Drake and Jenkins died as result of the accident.

Trooper Bunch’s preliminary report listed alcohol use by the driver and speed as contributing factors to the accident.