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Massachusetts’ Most Dangerous Intersections: Experts React

Thursday, January 24, 2013

 

GoLocal analyzed data on Massachusetts' high crash intersections and interchanges from the 5 percent report each state submits to the Federal Highway Administration's Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP)to determine which were the most dangerous for the Bay State's drivers.

Eastern Mass Tops the List

Intersections located in the eastern part of the state dominated the list. According to Sara Lavoie, press secretary at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), each year, the department produces a top 200 most dangerous intersection report, which is then used to make better decisions on roadway design to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

In addition, through the HSIP, a federal pot of money provides funding that is programmed on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

"A community can bring a project of interest to the Metropolitan Planning Organization of that region and work through the Regional Planning Agency and the MassDOT District office to see if the project can get onto the STIP funded with HSIP," said Lavoie, noting that a location would have to be in the top 5 percent within its region in order to be eligible for a project.

"MassDOT frequently works with the regional planning agencies to conduct Road Safety Audits (RSA) at these locations. A RSA is a multi-disciplined review of a location to identify safety concerns and possible short and long term solutions. The short term solutions may then be implemented by the entity with jurisdiction over the location and the long term solutions may be programmed using HSIP funds."

Comparing Across the New England

The data submitted by Rhode Island included street intersections as well as highway interchanges and ramps, the state's highest-volume roadways, which some other New England states, such as Massachusetts, did not include in their reports.

Interchanges on those roadways, which see over 100,000 cars per day in some areas, dominated Rhode Island's list, and by extension, the New England rankings.

"It is inconceivable that Rhode Island represents eight of the worst 10 intersections in New England, and any thorough review of comparable data provided by all six New England states would easily prove otherwise," said Bryan Lucier, senior information and public relations specialist at RIDOT.

Drivers Behaving Badly

At the end of the day, there's only so much engineering and design can do to keep roads safe, and the most dangerous part of the equation is often drivers themselves.

According to Robert Rocchio, managing engineer of the Traffic Management and Highway Safety Division at the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the three major causes of crashes in Rhode Island, and fatal ones in particular, are speeding, impaired or drowsy driving and distracted driving.

"It's really behavioral issues," he said. "If people were not engaging in these risky driving behavoirs and negative driving behaviors it would dramatically, dramatically reduce the number of crashes."

He noted that there have been 48 teenage driving fatalities in Rhode Island over the last five years. In 44 of those cases, the teenager killed was not wearing a seatbelt. The more startling fact, said Rocchio, was that every single one of the 48 teenagers killed did not have a parent or guardian in the vehicle with them at the time, which would seem to indicate different driving behaviors based on who else is in the car.

"It's a whole differnet behavior when their parents aren't there."

John Paul, Manager of Traffic Safety for AAA of Southern New England, said that even though texting while driving is illegal in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, he suspects many drivers still continue to engage in the risky behavior.

"There's only about 2 percent of the population that can truly multitask," he said. "We want people to just drive.

"Ideally, we'd like to see people lock their cell phones in their glove compartment as soon as they get in the car and just focus on driving."
 

 

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