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Funding for Safer Intersections

Written by Peggy Walkins Krainik

Officers know them because they are frequently called to the accident scene to take statements from witnesses and photograph the vehicles. Drivers know them when they see them: the intersections that are a little too confusing, a little too busy, have too many distractions or too many pedestrians. And there is one more group that keeps tabs on the nation’s most dangerous intersections: insurance companies.

Officers typically file their accident reports with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, while the drivers file their reports with their insurance companies. State Farm Insurance has been keeping track of where and how often accidents occur, and has composed nationwide and statewide lists of the most dangerous intersections.

After identifying the most dangerous intersections, State Farm also provides the municipalities with the funding and resources to help fix the identifiable problems at each intersection.

What separates a more dangerous intersection from one that is less dangerous? Crashes with more bodily injury were given higher rates, as were those with very extensive damage to the vehicles. The intersections that hold the most accidents, with high levels of bodily and vehicular damage, received the highest danger index.

With that information, State Farm was able to pinpoint their clients’ most dangerous intersections around the country and by area. Although the company could only perform this research on its own reported data, State Farm is a large enough company that this data is indicative of how intersections rate overall.

A visit to the State Farm Web site will also show the 10 most dangerous intersections in each of the 50 states.

State Farm developed a system to help fix recurring intersection problems and reduce the number of accidents. It figured out what was probably causing the crashes and offered grants to the municipalities of the most dangerous intersections so they could fix them.

The most frequent crashes at intersections are rear end collisions, but side-impact and frontal collisions also occur. The accidents are most often due to drivers who run red lights, fail to yield, tailgate, speed or divide their attention by talking on a cell phone, changing the radio, eating, etc.

Sometimes the traffic engineering of the intersections could also be the cause of some problems. For instance, a short or no left turning signal, and some intersections are hard to see around when turning. These are all problems that a traffic engineer can fix, once the department pinpoints the causes of most crashes or near-crashes.

Traffic signal timing, the addition of left turn lanes, improving visibility and adding roundabouts are just some of the suggestions State Farm has to offer. More suggestions are listed and explained on its Web site. Also on its site are the facts from a couple of different cases where these implemented changes actually helped to reduce crashes. State Farm offers the municipalities funding for improvements. Municipalities with the nation’s 10 most dangerous intersections are eligible for up to $100,000 in funding for improvements. These funds cover the cost of paying a traffic engineer to fix any engineering problems; to research what causes most accidents at an intersection; and to rebuild or make any construction changes at the intersection.

State Farm also offers up to $20,000 to any municipality that has an intersection that makes a state’s top 10 most dangerous list. These funds are not enough to reconstruct an intersection, but will pay for a traffic engineer’s time and information and research. From its most current data and research, State Farm expects to pay out five million dollars for research and funding. The most important factor about this research is that it has helped lead to the reduction of accidents: three Detroit intersections reduced crashes by 40%, and Vancouver was able to reduce rear end collisions by 40%.

The last list was issued in 2001, covering 1999 and 2000. According to Dick Luedke, State Farm public affairs agent, “We are currently studying newly developed methods for using our claims data to measure danger at intersections with hopes of implementing them in the future. And so, we are not sure at this point about the timetable for future lists.” When they do issue another list, State Farm will contact the affected municipalities before the list is published.

Maybe your jurisdiction did not make the list from State Farm. Your department can conduct its own crash location/frequency analysis. It can determine why some intersections are more dangerous than others. State Farm has tips. For more information on the State Farm program and funding information, and what to look for and change at problematic intersections, please visit www.statefarm.com or contact them by e-mail.

Published in Law and Order, Sep 2003

Rating : 4.0


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