U.S. 290 death toll rises to 10 in Dripping Springs

Concerns continue to rise in Dripping Springs after another fatal car accident occurred along U.S. Highway 290 this week, increasing the death toll along the highway to 10 in 2016.

For some residents, the surge of fatal accidents is stirring a discussion about a police force within Dripping Springs.

Two men were killed and two others were injured after a three-car accident along 290 near Retha Drive that took place in front of Dripping Springs High.

According to reports, Jose Luis Aguilar-Soto, 47, and Rodolfo Aguilar-Soto, 56, brothers, were killed in the accident.

According to a KXAN report, the driver of a Toyota that was turning left onto 290 failed to yield to the right of way and crashed into a Honda Civic, which was driven by Jose, that was in the eastbound lane.

The resulting crash caused the civic to spin into the westbound lanes, where it was struck by an Escalade, which caused the vehicle to roll over in a ditch. Both Jose and Rodolfo were pronounced dead at the scene.

Fatality accidents on U.S. 290 in Dripping Springs

Ten people have been killed in accidents along U.S. Highway 290 in the Dripping Springs area over a 214 day span ranging from May 8 to Dec. 8. Below is a list of those accidents:

  • Dec. 8   –  U.S. 290 at Retha Dr.            – 2 fataliites
  • Oct. 1    –  14000 block of U.S. 290        – 1 fatality
  • Aug. 12 –  U.S. 290 at Holder Lane       – 2 fatalities
  • May 8   –  U.S. 290 at Crow Ranch Rd. – 5 fatalities

As news of the fatal collision spread, members of the community took to the News-Dispatch Facebook page to address their concerns.

Kira Dyer said she couldn’t count the number of times she has “nearly been run off of the road” due to “ill driving” in Dripping Springs after picking up her children.

“I am also quite concerned that we have a 35 mph school zone right after Sportsplex, yet, I am being flipped off, yelled at, and passed by people going close to 50 mph (or close to 40 mph in front of Walnut) when (school zone) lights are flashing,” Dyer wrote in her comment.

She added that she hasn’t seen many officers enforcing the school zone in the area.

Ann Hawken commented that the city needs a police department.

“Hays County sheriffs are spread too thin,” Hawken said. “The DPS could show up more often. Call them!”

Mark Kendzora said DPS should patrol U.S. 290 and not Sawyer Ranch/Darden Hill Road.

“I’ve seen too many DPS waiting for the occasional speeding car … when I can sit at the red lights on 290 and watch people run them all day … I don’t get this,” Kendzora said.

Michelle Fisher, Dripping Springs City Administrator, said in an emailed response the city looked at law enforcement options in the past. She said it was determined that additional law enforcement in the city limits wasn’t needed at the time.

But Fisher said the city’s Comprehensive Plan Implementation Guide, which was approved last month, recommended the city consider several options in 2018, while also exploring the cost to implement the recommendations. Options include contracting with Hays County for additional law enforcement, or possibly hiring a city marshal.

While Fischer said there are no state regulations for creating a police force, cities rely on attorneys and consultants to create a force.

“The city monitors law enforcement activity in the city and has a good relationship with the Hays County Sheriff’s Department,” Fischer said.

Dennis Gutierrez, HCSO public information officer, said they work to concentrate county motor units in the area in an attempt to slow people down.

But Gutierrez said the HCSO “can’t be out there” 24 hours per day, seven days a week. He said the Sheriff’s Office relies on the help of Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers to patrol the area.

With the growth in the area, Gutierrez said the HCSO can’t keep pace.

Infrastructure problems are also contributing to accidents on U.S. 290, Gutierrez said. He said drivers may not be able to adequately judge the speed of an incoming car when they try to turn across the highway.

“We do the best we can on that stretch of 290,” Gutierrez said. “We don’t have the staff and the manpower to hit that area as hard as we can.”

SAFETY FIRST

Hays County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Dennis Gutierrez said drivers should be extremely cautious when turning along U.S. Highway 290. Use of blinkers, especially when turning or changing lanes, is also important, along with avoiding sharp movements when merging. “Keep your distance, watch speed and be cautious when crossing over,” Gutierrez said.

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