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As family remembers bicyclist who died in crash, community looks at road safety

July 25, 2017 GMT

Robby Dodd remembers how much his son Adam cared about other people.

Adam Dodd, 21, formerly of Hubbardston, Mass., died June 27 after being struck by a vehicle on the intersection of Kittitas Highway and No. 6 Road while riding a bicycle. According to a law enforcement report, Dodd failed to yield at a stop sign and died at the scene.

He was riding his bike to tell his grandma that he’d gotten a job at Super 1 Foods. He had Asperger syndrome and was on the autism spectrum, his father said.

“He had a heart of gold, which made him a compassionate person,” Robby Dodd said. “Adam will leave a void in the heart of everyone he touched, especially his family.”

Adam Dodd faced charges for second-degree arson in Kittitas County Superior Court from an incident June 14. He allegedly burned down a dilapidated building on property owned by his mother and his aunt, Robby Dodd said. The family was considering removing the structure and putting a tiny house on it for Adam.

“My son, with his Asperger’s, sometimes he makes a wrong choice,” Robby Dodd said. “He went out and he put some gas on the front part of the house that was left … his cousin got scared, nervous and stuff and he called 911.”

Adam Dodd’s family remembers him as a kind soul who went out of his way to help others. He was religious and involved in mission work in other countries.

At one point, Adam worked as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home, Robby Dodd said. One time when Robby came to pick Adam up from work, Adam heard a client ask to use the bathroom and a coworker said she should just go in her pants.

“Well my son said, ‘Absolutely not, you can’t do that. I won’t stand for it,’” he said. “He went right to the boss, but he made sure that it got done.”

Adam Dodd had a deep appreciation of veterans, especially since his mom was a Bronze Star recipient, Robby Dodd said. He would go up and shake the hand of every veteran he met. His family had him laid to rest in a military cemetery where his father and mother will also be located.

Robby Dodd wanted to thank the woman who got out of her car to provide CPR to Adam after the crash. He also thanked the nurses and doctors who treated him and the emergency personnel who responded to the scene.

Adam Dodd’s aunt works as a nurse at Kittitas Valley Healthcare and the staff there recognized him when he arrived with emergency responders, he said. A doctor at the hospital paid for his aunt’s plane ticket so she could attend his funeral in Massachusetts.

Intersection safety

After the fatal collision, neighbors and others expressed concern about the safety of the intersection on Kittitas Highway and No. 6 Road. The intersection has had nine collisions in the last two years, according to reports from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

In 2015, Kittitas County did a road safety improvement project adding flashing red lights, widening the road and installing cautionary signs to both Kittitas Highway and No. 6 Road, County Engineer Luke Huck said.

Between Jan. 1, 2012, and July 1, 2015, the county had only three collisions between those intersections, according to WSP reports.

Kittitas Highway and No. 6 Road was the most dangerous intersection in the county between July 1, 2015 and July 24, 2017, according to WSP reports. The next dangerous intersections were Reecer Creek and Dry Creek Road and Vantage Highway and Naneum Road, both with five collisions.

Collisions overall have increased in the last few years on Kittitas Highway with 18 between 2015 and 2017 compared to 11 between 2012 and 2015.

A large part of the increase is most likely due to the rise of traffic in conjunction with jumps in population, Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell said. But the road safety improvements on Kittitas Highway may also have contributed somewhat to the number of collisions.

The paradox of road safety projects are sometimes when engineers make roads wider and straighter people feel so safe, they stop paying as much attention to the road and start doing things like looking at their phones while driving, he said.

Years ago, the county did not build intersections and roads to the same standards as modern day engineers, Jewell said. Sometimes entire intersections need to redone to increase public safety.

“This is a tragic accident. We will certainly take a look at it to see if there is improvement needed,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”

County Engineer Huck said Public Works employees are currently monitoring the intersection to see if the county’s road safety improvements will be successful. If the county continues to have problems, it will take additional measures.

“Some of those you have to take into account if there were measures that would have prevented that,” Huck said.

Engineers can’t stop people from disobeying stop signs, which he believe is a large part of the problem on that intersection, he said. The county can put up blinking lights and warnings, but people still need to stop.

“A lot of people get comfortable with this intersection and do rolling stops as they’re approaching the intersection,” Huck said. “It takes one second of missing a car to cause a major accident.”