Study: I-40/I-440 interchange top 5 ‘worst intersections’ in US; NCDOT disputes findings

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As people get ready to hit the road over this holiday, there are concerns from several quarters about safety on those roads for both motorists and pedestrians.

In one case, an interstate junction here in Raleigh is being called one of the worst intersections in the country, but the state DOT is disputing the findings of that study.

The study on interstate crashes was done by a San Francisco-based firm called Go Safe Labs.

It calls the interchange between Interstate 40 and Interstate 440 a “traffic hotspot” to avoid this holiday season to keep you and your loved ones safe.

The lab analyzed over 201,000 December wrecks nationwide that happened between 2016 through 2018, using local, state and federal data.

It ranked the I-40/I-440 interchange as the fifth-worst in the country saying it saw an average of 26 wrecks in December during its study period.

But, the NCDOT’s Steve Abbott disputes the finding’s saying, “We certainly don’t consider the number of crashes as the main factor in terms of most dangerous.”

Abbott says, “Other factors like traffic volume, causes of the crashes, etc. have to be part of a study on that subject.”

He also says the study “doesn’t seem to take into account that is the same time the Fortify project was underway at that location.”

The study’s authors admit “reporting bias is inherent in the way the data was collected” and say that future studies will be needed to correct those problems.

Another unrelated study looked at pedestrian accidents on interstates involving both disabled vehicles and people crossing interstates.

“Most of these crashes occur in urban areas and at night and in the dark,” said Jessica Cicchino, the vice president of research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “The majority of them occurred on roads with speed limits of 65 mph or higher.”

The IIHS study looked at pedestrian fatalities on interstates and freeways from 2015 to 2017 and says the number of pedestrians dying on these limited-access roads is increasing significantly.

“More than 800 pedestrians a year have died on interstates and freeways in recent years,” said Cicchino. “This is up 60 percent since 2009.”

The IIHS looked at the land use around these roads near where fatal pedestrian accidents happened.

“We saw that there was housing on one side of the road and other types of non-residential land use on the other side, so things like shopping centers or bus depots,” said Cicchino.

The institute says in those locales, physical barriers between the buildings and the highways can help.

It also recommends designing safe places for pedestrians to cross or walk along the roadway along such as overpasses and underpasses.

“A pedestrian that’s struck by a vehicle at 55 mph has a 90 percent chance of dying from their injuries, and that goes up as speed goes up, so we know that highway speeds aren’t compatible with having pedestrians around,” said Cicchino.

The institute says automakers have a role to play in this by providing better headlights because it says, currently, not all headlights do the same job helping drivers avoid pedestrians and other obstacles.

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