Dangerous Roads, or Dangerous Driving?

This piece from Fox News (after the jump as well) claims to identify the “top 10 most dangerous roads in America,” implying as well that stimulus spending might somehow be directed to these corridors of death.

But reading through the piece, the overwhelming impression left with me is not design or infrastructural shortcomings, but driver shortcomings: Speed, alcohol, fatigue.

Top Ten Deadliest Stretches of Road in America

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
By Maxim Lott

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Oct. 13, 2007: Trucks burn at the exit of a tunnel between Santa Clarita and Los Angeles on one of the deadliest stretches of highway in America.

While Congress is busy hammering out the details of the $838 billion-and-counting economic recovery bill, the 50 states are already releasing their wish lists for the projects they want to see funded. Among those are numerous roads and highways that they want to see improved.

But where do you start? Which pothole do you fill first? analyzed data from crash reports over the last five years to determine which stretches of the nation’s roads had the highest number of deadly accidents.

Not too surprisingly, the most populated state, California, had four of the top 10 roads in numbers of fatalities. And three of those top 10 were stretches of the same Interstate — I-10 in California and Arizona.

Click here to see fatality rates on highways in your state.

Eight of the top 10 were in Western states — California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas. The other two roads were in Florida. And all but the last road on the list were major Interstates.

If you live in the neighborhood, you probably already are aware of the danger that lurks ahead. If you don’t, but you’re planning on doing some cross-country travel, be alert:

Roads With the Most Fatalities Over The Last 5 Years, By County

1) 346 deaths: I-15 in San Bernardino County, California

Ironically, many fatalities on this stretch of I-15 may be because the road is so straight and wide.

“That road will put you to sleep,” said Baker Fire Station Chief Dan Tellez, whose station deals with all the emergencies along 75 miles of the highway. “And a lot of people tend to be speeding because it’s so wide and so straight.”

Alcohol also plays a role in this highway’s death toll. “We get a few people driving under the influence, coming from Vegas after partying all night,” Tellez said.

An accident last week killed two people when their car crashed into water barrels lining the freeway.

2) 182 deaths: I-10 in Riverside County, California

Two people were killed and four were injured in a four-car crash here in January, after a pickup truck veered into oncoming traffic.

But don’t blame the road design, local officials say.

“Most of it doesn’t have to do with the road per se,” said California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Chris Blondon, whose area includes part of I-10 in Riverside. “It more has to do with the drivers. Most of the crashes we see along that area are due to unsafe speeds. They’re going too fast for the road conditions.”

3) 178 deaths: I-10 in Maricopa County, Arizona

A local musician was killed in September after an 18-wheeler turned over in front of him.

State officials say the road is too narrow for the amount of traffic it now handles. Some parts are already being widened, and the state is asking for $61 million in federal stimulus funding to widen the rest of the road and do minor repairs.

“The purpose of the I-10 widening is to transform it from a rural style highway to an urban one,” Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Timothy Tait said. “Right now it has two lanes in each direction, which is very inadequate for a place like Phoenix.”

4) 158 deaths: I-5 in Los Angeles County, California

On Oct. 12, 2007, a speeding truck crashed into a concrete barrier in a tunnel near Santa Clarita, causing a chain reaction of crashes. Three people were killed and 26 vehicles were destroyed in an inferno that engulfed the tunnel. The fire shut down the highway for two days.

This week, a California Highway Patrol report determined that speeding was the primary cause of the accident — at least 13 of the vehicles were going over the speed limit.

But Saia Motor Freight, the company that owned the truck that started the chain reaction, told the Los Angeles Times that poor lighting conditions in the tunnel and inadequately maintained warning signs were to blame. The California Department of Transportation said it has since improved conditions in the tunnel.

5) 153 deaths: I-45 in Harris County, Texas

A man was killed last month when he was speeding and missed a turn on I-45 near Fuqua. The car rolled over at least twice and ended in a ditch, FOX 26 reported.

State officials say the sheer amount of traffic on the road is the main problem.

“[I-45] is a major traffic corridor through the city of Houston. Whenever you have more cars, you’re going to have more crashes,” said Mark Cross, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation.

The Texas DOT has identified $3 million in safety improvements, such as signs and pavement markings, that it would like to see funded with federal stimulus money.

6) 148 deaths: I-15 in Clark County, Nevada

Two men died in a head-on collision in September, caused by one of the drivers going in the wrong direction on the freeway.

But this road is getting better: Fatalities fell from 39 in 2006 to 19 last year.

Kevin Honea, a trooper with the Nevada Department of Public Safety, attributed the decline in fatalities to increased police activity, which has been particularly focused on this stretch of I-10 going from California to Las Vegas.

“Biggest reason is an increased officer presence out there,” Honea said. “We’ve got a very aggressive group of guys out there…. People see our officers, and they know they had better buckle up.”

Scott Magruder, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation, said major projects to widen the highway and add an express lane are under way and due for completion next April. Less congestion should improve safety even more, he said, as drivers feel less of a need to weave between lanes.

The state is planning another widening of the road between Tropicana and State Road 160, which would cost up to $250 million. Magruder said funding from the proposed stimulus bill may help pay for that.

7) 131 deaths: I-95 in Palm Beach County, Florida

The driver of a gasoline tanker truck was sentenced to 35 years in prison in December after being found responsible for an accident in which his truck turned over on a car, exploded, and killed four people.

Prosecutors said the driver was going 25 miles per hour over the speed limit and had not taken the mandatory rest breaks for truck drivers.

The Florida Department of Transportation has listed $160 million in additions and repairs to I-95 in its wish list for federal stimulus money.

Tied for 8) 118 deaths: I-10 in Pinal County, Arizona

Local firefighters who respond to calls on the road say a main problem is bored drivers who fall asleep.

“It’s probably one of the straightest sections of I-10 there is,” said Assistant Fire Chief Jim Morgan of the Casa Grande Fire Department. “This stretch of the road is basically the center point between Tuscon and Phoenix. It’s a long-distance trip, and we’re at the middle point…. Most people who survive wrecks usually tell us they were getting fatigued.”

Tied for 8) 118 deaths: I-5 in San Diego County, California

A pregnant woman was killed in January after another car clipped her vehicle while switching lanes. The offending driver will stand trial for speeding and driving recklessly.

10) 102 deaths: US-1 in Miami-Dade County, Florida

A woman was sentenced to three years in jail in 2007 after making a U-turn that led to the death of a motorcyclist. She was also sentenced for possession of cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

The state stimulus spending wish list includes over $100 million for US-1, the only non-Interstate road on the list.

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2009 at 8:15 am and is filed under Drivers, Risk, Roads, Traffic Engineering. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

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Royal Automobile Club
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American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
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Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
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Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
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Metropolis and Mobile Life
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February 2009

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