Washington-area intersections rack up collisions

By |
Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley,Metro and Traffic

Drivers navigating the Washington area know that some intersections can be particularly dangerous, even without the choking traffic that plagues the region.

Motorists stumped by New York Avenue and Florida Avenue NE in D.C. can know they're not alone in nerve-wracking near-misses when crawling through that intersection:

It was one of D.C.'s top hot spots for accidents in the past year, tying with the junction of Pennsylvania Avenue SE and the Anacostia Freeway.

The Washington Examiner analyzed area police departments' lists of intersections having the most crashes in their jurisdictions. Experts warned against comparing jurisdictions, as each one collects and records crash data differently. Fairfax County did not provide crash information.

But the lists do remind drivers to be alert when steering through places like Four Corners in Silver Spring, at the intersection of Colesville Road and University Boulevard, which had 51 collisions last year -- the most in Montgomery County. Or when driving down Alexandria's Duke Street, whose intersections landed the thoroughfare in nine of the top 10 slots for accidents in the city, for a total of 172 crashes.

Washington's worst
D.C. *
April 2012-April 2013
Tier 1
New York Ave. and Florida Ave. Northeast
Pennsylvania Ave. and Anacostia Freeway Southeast
Tier 2
3rd Street Tunnel
Dupont Circle
North Capitol St. and New York Ave Northeast
Interstate 295 and Suitland Parkway exit
Tier 3
K St. and 14th St. Northwest
M St. and Wisconsin Ave. Northwest
New Jersey Ave. and New York Ave. Northwest
U St. and 14th St. Northwest
Florida Ave. and Georgia Ave. Northwest
Bladensburg Ave. and New York Ave. Northeast
North Capitol St. and Jefferson St. Northeast
Montgomery County
January 2012-December 2012
1. Colesville Road and University Blvd (51 recorded vehicle collisions)
2. University Blvd. and Piney Branch Road (36)
3. New Hampshire Ave. and Oakview Drive (35)
4. Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road (31)
5. Georgia Ave. and Connecticut Ave. (30)
6. Georgia Ave. & Forest Glen Road (30)
7. New Hampshire Ave. and Powder Mill Road (29)
8. Columbia Pike and Fairland Road (28)
9. Norbeck Road and Georgia Ave. (27)
10. Colesville Road & Fenton Street (26)
Arlington County
May 2012-April 2013
1. Arlington Blvd. and South Washington Blvd. (45)
2. Arlington Blvd. and South George Mason Drive (25)
3. South 23rd St. and Jefferson Davis Hwy. (23)
4. Columbia Pike and South Glebe Road (21)
5. Fairfax Drive and North Glebe Road (20)
6. Army Navy Drive and South Hayes St. (20)
7. North Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd. (19)
8. Columbia Pike and South George Mason Drive (18)
9. South Walter Reed Dr. and South Washington Blvd. (18)
10. Fort Myer Drive and Lee Hwy. (18)
Alexandria
January-December 2012
1. Duke St. and Quaker Lane (27)
2. Duke St. and Walker St. (23)
3. Duke St. and Taylor Run Pkwy. (23)
4. Beauregard St. and Seminary Road (21)
5. Duke St. and Callahan Dr.(18)
6. Duke St. and Witter St. (18)
7. Duke St. and Telegraph Road (17)
8. Duke St. and Gordon St. (16)
9. Duke St. and Van Dorn St. (15)
10. Duke St. and Pickett St. (15)
Prince George's County*^
Jan.1-May 14, 2013
Tier 1
University Blvd. and Riggs Road
Livingston Road and Oxon Hill Road
University Blvd. and New Hampshire Ave.
Tier 2
Indian Head Hwy. and Livingston Road
Silver Hill Road and Suitland Road
Marlboro Pike and Silver Hill Road
Tier 3
Temple Hill Road and Allentown Road
Riverdale Road and Annapolis Road
Central Ave. and Addison Road South
Annapolis Road and Princess Garden Pkwy.
*Two jurisdictions, D.C. and Prince George's County, were not able to give exact rankings. D.C. provided a "heat map" of accidents, along with intersections in tiers. Prince George's County provided raw intersection data, which Examiner reporters then transformed into a heat map and associated tiers.
^does not include accidents that Maryland State Police, Hyattsville City, Greenbelt, and Laurel City police responded to.
Note: Fairfax County did not provide data.
Sources: area jurisdictions' police data

"It is paramount for motorists to always pay attention," said Dave Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. "Clearly when you come up on these more congested intersections, the potential for conflict points in a crash increases, and therefore you need to be in a heightened state of awareness."

Buck said most incidents result from driver errors, such as failure to pay attention, driving too fast or driving under the influence.

But some intersections are designed poorly -- or could use a few tweaks to help prevent accidents. Arlington engineers recently rebuilt a signal at the intersection of Arlington Boulevard and South George Mason Drive, where the county had 25 crashes in the past year, to help drivers see it better, said Arlington traffic engineer Wayne Wentz.

Officials from area jurisdictions regularly comb accident reports to identify road flaws that could have contributed to crashes.

"If we identify an intersection that has a high number of collisions -- and we're going through this systematically -- we then look at all the features, the striping, the signing, the signal timing," Wentz said.

For some pesky intersections, there's not much that can be done. The interchange at Arlington Boulevard and South Washington Boulevard saw 45 accidents from May 2012 to April 2013 -- the most of any intersection in Arlington County -- but state engineers say the interchange was built in 1944, back when design standards and cars were different, and now development around the roads makes expanding or reworking the intersection difficult.

"The standards have evolved as we've learned more about how people behave and how drivers drive. To build it properly -- there's just no room there," said Ivan Horodyskyj, a traffic engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Many intersections in the Washington region are handling more cars than they were designed for, wearing out faster than planners in cash-strapped governments can fix them, said AAA Mid-Atlantic's Lon Anderson.

But even without major fixes, educating drivers and enforcing the rules of the road go a long way toward keeping accidents down, officials said.

"The engineering part of it can only do so much," said Buck. "It's driver attention, keeping the speed down. It's watching out for pedestrians -- things like that."

Jennifer Peebles contributed to this report.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner