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Report cites vehicle volume as main factor in accidents

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Thousands of drivers pass through the county’s most dangerous intersections each day, and police believe that’s the biggest factor causing a high number of accidents.

The county’s most traveled roads, including U.S. 31, Madison Avenue, County Line Road and Emerson Avenue, can be found more than once on the top 10 list of intersections with the most accidents, according to a traffic study by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute.

The study ranked the intersections by only the number of accidents reported and does not take into account injuries or damage. None of the five fatal accidents in 2011 occurred at the intersections, according to the report.

Heavy traffic, rather than geography or weather, is the biggest reason police identified for the high number of accidents.

“I think the two go hand-in-hand. The more traffic, the more exposure to risk there is,” Greenwood Police Department Sgt. Doug Roller said.

Rush-hour traffic going to and from Indianapolis puts more vehicles on those streets and creates the potential for more accidents, most of which are minor, Roller said.

“The north-south arteries that run through Greenwood, those are all places where the traffic is heavily northbound. Then come about 4 o’clock it reverses course. The congestion rises with the people going to and from their work commute,” he said.

There are no plans for road construction projects for any of the 10 intersections, although the Indiana Department of Transportation is planning work along State Road 135, which did not make the list this year.

U.S. 31 and Westview Drive in Franklin topped the list with 15 accidents in 2011. The intersection has been on the most dangerous list for four years and also topped the ranking in 2010.

INDOT changed the right-turn lane into a shoulder at Westview Drive in October 2011, and Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan said he thinks that could have caused an increase in accidents since drivers forgot the turn lane isn’t there anymore.

U.S. 31 and Whiteland Road was second on the list with 14 accidents. Three other busy streets, Emerson and Madison avenues and County Line Road, also appeared on the list more than once.

Whiteland Town Marshal Rick Shipp said he was surprised the Whiteland Road intersection was so high on the list because he didn’t think the intersection was any more dangerous than others in the county.

“It’s very wide open and visible. That surprised me that’s one of the top 10. We do have accidents there once in a while, but not to a great extent,” he said.

Drivers speeding through yellow lights or running red lights cause several accidents at intersections, but motorists not paying attention to the road account for most wrecks, especially when traffic is heavy, Franklin Police Department Lt. Kerry Atwood said.

Weather also plays a factor, especially when roads are icy or wet and drivers try to stop suddenly.

“You have the possibility of a crash at any intersection or at any stretch of road. Unfortunately that’s just part of driving. And as much as we try to reduce that number, there are still going to be accidents,” Atwood said.

Police said road improvements aren’t planned for any of the intersections on the list, but projects are planned for other intersections that have had a high number of crashes. INDOT has projects slated to improve areas along State Road 135 at Main Street and Smokey Row Road, which have made the list in past years.

Greenwood helped reduce accidents in past years at the Main Street intersection by requiring businesses to close entrances from State Road 135 to reduce the number of drivers turning into traffic. The state also plans to install a stoplight at Smokey Row Road to reduce accidents when drivers try to cross the highway.

Greenwood also helped reduce accidents by installing a median on Fry Road south of Greenwood Park Mall in 2010. A traffic study showed more than 40 accidents at that site due to drivers trying to make left turns or crossing to a parking lot across the street. Accidents at that site now are rare, Roller said.

Police also often patrol high-traffic roads, since a having an officer visible in an area typically causes motorists to drive more cautiously.

Greenwood has increased the number of officers near State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road, which was an area police wanted to watch following some serious crashes at the intersection.

“When you’re in a visible area or making traffic stops and people see the red and blue lights, you’re stopping one driver but you’re having a deterrent effect on dozens of other drivers,” Roller said.

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