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It’s been seven years since Mr. Mobley’s curves between Newbern and Hartsville were straightened, but they bear the same albatross with which their much more pronounced predecessors were burdened.
In the pre-straightened days, the winding stretch of State Road 46 acquired an almost mythical fame as a doomsday road that claimed scores of unprepared motorists.
Indeed, the curves on the stretch leading into Hartsville were daunting, especially at night. They acquired statewide fame in a 1981 accident that paralyzed Indiana University basketball star Landon Turner.
State officials regarded the situation as so dangerous that they authorized a straightening project, which was completed around 2005.
The straightening was actually in name only. Curves remained, but they were made more sweeping and were not as abrupt as their predecessors.
Despite the changes, major accidents continued to be recorded in the area — 10 last year and another 10 so far this year. In the seven years of the straightened curves, three fatal accidents have been reported, the most recent claiming the lives of two Greensburg residents.
The accidents have renewed concerns about the area named for William Mobley, an early 20th century farmer who owned property on both sides of the road.
Statistics compiled by the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s department, however, cloud the question of whether the road is to blame.
Police cite three factors as causes in most of the accidents: road conditions, speed and driver distraction.
Frequent users of the highway and neighbors note that the realigned curves seem to have encouraged some drivers to increase their speeds.
Even though the curves are not so pronounced as they once were, drivers should exercise extra caution when navigating them. They should be particularly mindful of the need to drive defensively, to be alert for oncoming drivers who have disregarded that matter of common sense.
Some drivers still treat the curves as part of a winding Grand Prix course on which they can test their reactions and handling skills. They fail to remember that they are not professionals blessed with quick reactions.
Highway officials contend that the curves can be managed at speeds of up to 55 mph, but as should be painfully evident, speed limits are seldom obeyed, regardless of the conditions. Moreover there are some sections of the curves where the limits drop to 45 or 40 mph, but they too are ignored.
Officials with the Indiana Department of Transportation report that no speed studies have been conducted on the road since completion of the realignment.
That certainly appears to be in order given the record of accidents and concerns of area residents. Perhaps those speed limits need to be lowered. Perhaps there needs to be a greater enforcement effort.
To do nothing is to maintain the gruesome reputation of Mobley Curves.
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