Not every motor vehicle accident is the fault of a driver. Some may be the result of built-in dangers in roadways and intersections. The Columbus region is no exception, and area roadways appear every year on lists of dangerous roads and intersections prepared by law enforcement, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC)
Local residents believe that the worst in the area is around intersection at Cleveland Avenue and Morse Road in Columbus. This suspicion is confirmed by the 2013 report that was released at the end of May. Of the 40 intersections on the list, ten are either on Morse Road or Cleveland Avenue.
The MORPC conducts a periodic study of dangerous roadways and intersections. It reviews accident data, traffic density and severity of accidents to develop their lists. Once a stretch of road appears on the list, traffic engineers monitor it and try to determine whether redesign, additional signage, or other adjustments can make the intersection safer for pedestrians and drivers.
A spokesperson for MORPC said that many intersections that appear on the list are complex, with multiple lanes, turns and signals.
The recently released study shows the Morse and Cleveland intersection has the highest crash rate for the second time in two years. Crashes at this location occurred twice as many times as accidents at the second-ranked dangerous intersection, Broad Street and North Wilson Road.
In response to the information provided by the studies, Columbus has spent $30 million to improve the Morse and Cleveland intersection. Whether improvements in signal timing, addition of turn lanes and construction of traffic islands will address the problem remains to be seen. Growth in the area may lessen the positive impact of improvements, according to some residents and traffic experts.
Some intersections on the list do not require redesign. The city has added red-light cameras to eight of the locations, reducing crashes significantly at those locations.
City streets are not the only roadways that are known for causing accidents. Interstates in the region also appear on listings of dangerous highways. The Ohio Department of Transportation reported more than ten years ago that the Livingston Curve on I-70 is one of the most accident-prone sites.
More recently, ODOT released information showing that some local interstate and state routes near congested city streets had the most accidents. Interchanges near Hamilton, Dublin-Granville and Morse roads were in the top ten most dangerous stretches of highway in the region. The worst at the time was the I-70 interchange near South Hamilton Road. Reports such as these prompted massive construction projects along I-70 to improve safety.
Despite the efforts of city and regional planners and traffic engineers, accidents continue to injure and kill many thousands of Columbus-area residents. Between 2009 and 2011, there were 111,504 traffic crashes in the MORPC region, which includes Franklin and Delaware counties as well as parts of Licking and Fairfield counties. In these crashes, 293 people died and around 41,000 suffered injuries.
Daily, 37 people are injured in traffic accidents. One person dies every 3.75 days. Pedestrian and bicycle accidents are only two percent of all crashes, but account for 20 percent of fatalities. Any number of injuries and fatalities is too high, but the MORPC area saw a reduction in crashes and fatalities in the period 2009 to 2001, compared to the previous cycle, 2007 to 2009.
The number of accidents in the most recent period declined by four percent and the number of fatalities went down by 3.1 percent. This is good news for the Columbus region. However, drivers are ultimately responsible for their own safety, according to a spokesperson for city planning and operations.