EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
When Llano County Sheriff Bill Blackburn says anyone caught driving around barricades at the Kingsland Slab crossing is going to jail, he doesn’t care if you safely make it across or have to be rescued by first responders.
“It applies to everyone,” he said. “We’re not trying to be mean; it’s a safety issue.”
The sheriff noted that Texas law makes driving around barricades at low-water crossings a Class B misdemeanor, an offense for which law enforcement can take you to jail. He pointed out an incident on May 4 when emergency crews responded to a vehicle stuck on the Kingsland Slab low-water crossing, located where FM 3404 in Kingsland crosses the Llano River. The driver had gone around the barricades and was attempting to cross when her vehicle stalled.
“She moved about two feet, and, had it not been for the (concrete) bumpers, she would have been washed off the road,” Blackburn said.
Fire crews and emergency services were able to get her out of the vehicle and safely back to shore. Though deputies didn’t arrest the woman at the time, Blackburn said a warrant for her arrest has since been issued.
It’s that serious of a matter to the sheriff.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Transportation, as little as 6 inches of water can force a car to lose traction. A foot of water is capable of floating many vehicles.
Blackburn said he’s well aware a pickup truck with large tires can ford higher water. However, he pointed out, a driver in a car following the truck might think it’s safe to cross and attempt it themselves then get washed away.
“It doesn’t matter if you roll up there in a Sherman tank and go around the barricades, we’re going to arrest you. This is for everyone,” Blackburn said. “It’s about being responsible, not just for yourself but for everyone in the car with you and for everyone in the car behind you.”
The mantra “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” applies to all low-water crossings, even ones with which a person is familiar. Blackburn recalled an incident in Hays County when a driver came upon a low-water crossing they had successfully forded on a number of occasions.
“The problem this time was the water had washed out a part of the road, and he couldn’t see it,” Blackburn said.
The car and driver were swept away, and the man died.
Which is why Blackburn is adamant about people not going around the Kingsland Slab low-water barricades when they’re up as well as any blocked low-water crossing.
Along with putting yourself and passengers at risk, attempting to cross flooded roads and low-water crossings also endangers first responders.
“If you’re trying to save time by going across, it’s not a good idea because you’ll spend a day, or even a night, with us,” the sheriff said.