What Are County's Most Dangerous Intersections?
High-volume traffic, impatience and inattention often add up to a recipe for a wreck.
In 2010, drivers were involved in more than 3,000 automobile accidents in Moore County, according to estimates from local law enforcement agencies. And some trouble spots around the county - certain tricky intersections and busy stretches of pavement - are worse than others.
"These roads were designed many years ago, and they were designed for X number of people," says Aberdeen Deputy Police Chief Jim Foster. "And as the population has grown, that means more people and more cars, so there are going to be more wrecks. People just need to be careful out there."
According to the local office of the State Highway Patrol, 1,023 accidents occurred on county roads under the patrol's jurisdiction during 2010. Those accidents resulted in eight fatalities. In 2009, there were 905 accidents and five fatalities.
This reverses a trend, according to 1st Sgt. T.D. Simmons, who says the number of wrecks in Moore County had been on a steady decline until this year.
"The numbers have been coming down or maintaining," he says. "We can't always come down. You can try, but it isn't always possible. "
Simmons says his ultimate goal is to keep the number of fatalities as low as possible.
"I'd like to not have any," he says. "But compared with some other counties, we are doing pretty well."
The statistics for Moore County are mirrored in its municipalities.
For example, in Pinehurst, the village has averaged 512 accidents per year over the past five years - including 511 in 2010. Seventy-five of those involved injuries. The number of injury accidents in 2010 in the village was about six below the average over the past five years.
The last fatal accident in Pinehurst occurred in 2009. There have been four fatalities since 2007. None of those happened in an intersection, according to the Pinehurst Police Department.
In Aberdeen, police estimate that there have been around 600 accidents in 2010, with no fatalities. And Southern Pines reports 3,218 accidents since 2007. Last year, there were 815 accidents and two fatalities. Since 2007, there have been six fatalities in Southern Pines.
In the communities of Moore County, some locations do have a higher incidence of accidents than others. Below is a quick look at some of the areas that local law-enforcement and emergency personnel respond to more regularly.
The town of Aberdeen has plenty of major intersections that see plenty of cars and a fair share of accidents. U.S. 15-501, U.S. 1 and N.C. 211 all run through Aberdeen.
"When you drive down U.S. 1 from Southern Pines to Aberdeen during lunchtime, it is a nightmare," Foster says.
One of the worst spots in town is the intersection of Magnolia Street North and U.S. 15-501 North, near Robert's Golf Shop. Others include the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 15-501, U.S. 15-501 at Columbus near the entrance to Starbuck's, and U.S. 15-501 at Johnson Street, which is a short road near Taco Bell that bisects two highways and has access to major shopping and restaurants.
A few specific areas jump to mind when you ask Carthage Police Chief Chris McKenzie about areas in town where his officers see a majority of their traffic accidents.
One is the intersection on McNeil and Monroe streets, right before the Carthage traffic circle when coming from the direction of the Carthage McDonald's. Another is farther down Monroe near the Food Lion shopping center. That area is a busy area of town with lots of stores and plenty of traffic.
Entering and exiting that shopping center can be confusing, McKenzie notes.
"It's a two-lane road, and all the drivers are trying to do different things, and that does create a lot of issues," he says.
The other area that has some problems is on Hillcrest Park Lane where it intersects with N.C. 22 and U.S. 15-501, near the Moore Humane Society.
Carthage had 59 intersection accidents in 2010, with no fatalities.
"We are fortunate," McKenzie says. "We are small enough that most of our roads are ones where the speed limit is 35, so most of our accidents are not high-speed collisions."
To get from one side of the county to another, the trip often includes a run through the increasingly congested Pinehurst Traffic Circle
"It is No. 1 for us," says Pinehurst Police Capt. Floyd Thomas.
The other areas that are of concern for Thomas and the officers are off the major roads that run through the village. The intersection at Page Road and N.C. 211 (first intersection west of the Traffic Circle) and Memorial Drive and N.C. 211 (near the FirstHealth fitness center are two accident-prone areas, Thomas says. The corner of Morganton Road and Monticello is another danger spot - along with the intersections of N.C. 5 with Morganton Road and N.C. 211.
"The greatest majority of those are red-light violations," Thomas says of the typical cause of wrecks at those locations.
When it comes to the Traffic Circle, Thomas says, the most common cause of accidents is failure of drivers to pay attention to their surroundings.
"Most of them are rear-enders," he says, "where the driver thinks the car in front has already gone and they have not."
Law enforcement officers are reluctant to single out areas or intersections that may or may not be dangerous, saying that their computer system categorizes ccidents by address only.
"There are too many factors that play into them (accidents)," says Lt. Rodney Hardy, with the Southern Pines police. "Ultimately, it is up to the individual operator."
Hardy says his department does monitor traffic, and when residents complain about safety issues on particular roads, the department will take action.
Determining the safety of the roads in Moore County and throughout the state falls to the engineers at the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT). And it isn't a simple process or one that is taken lightly.
"When we get just one call, that's when we go out and take a look," says David Willett, a division traffic engineer for DOT.
If, for example, NCDOT received a call about an intersection that had recently seen an increase in accidents, engineers would begin by gathering information about the scene and the nature of the crashes, Willett says.
They would be looking for patterns - information about time of day, weather factors, speed or road conditions. Engineers would also perform traffic counts.
Once all the information is gathered, the DOT engineers then turn to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control devices. That manual gives the DOT engineers guidelines and recommendations about how to deal with the area of concern.
For example, it may recommend a traffic light for the intersection in question depending on the speed limit on the road, its traffic volume or other factors.
"We've not been informed of many bad areas in Moore County," Willett says.
Two areas that have been reviewed by DOT engineers lately are both located on Sand Pit Road. A four-way stop sign was recently installed at the intersection of Roseland Road and Sandpit, near the Circle K service station, while a signal light was installed at Sand Pit's intersection with N.C. 5, near the Habitat for Humanity shop.
DOT engineers are also currently studying a stretch of road on U.S. 1 near John McQueen Road in Aberdeen, not far from the Mount Fuji restaurant, because of crashes. Once the study is complete and a recommendation is made, Willett says, data is normally evaluated for a period of about three years before future recommendations are made.
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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