CHARLES TOWN - Attention Jefferson County drivers: Do you know where you’re more likely to be involved in a fender bender or even possibly a serious crash?
A study of traffic accidents from 2013 to 2017 in Jefferson County published by the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization, a regional transportation planning body, offers some insights on where to stay on guard the most behind the wheel.
Conducted in June, the traffic study captured data for vehicle crashes reported by police departments to the West Virginia Division of Highways, said Matt Mullenax, executive director of HEPMPO. The traffic study gathered data on, among other factors, the number, severity and locations of accidents throughout the Eastern Panhandle. The times of day when crashes occurred were also considered.
The study’s data offer a broad-brush view to identifying statistically the highest accident-prone stretches of roadways and intersections in Jefferson County, Mullenax said. Once identified, those accident-prone locations are reviewed by highway safety officials to consider what might be done to make those locations safer, he said.
Calibrating the timing of traffic signals, extended merging or traffic-stacking lanes, flashing warning lights, bolder roadway markings, pavement rumble strips and skid-resistant roadway paving are among some of the safety measures that can be considered to make a roadway safer for motorists, Mullenax said.
Traffic speeds and volumes, and turning and merging points on roadways are predictable factors at accident-prone locations, Mullenax said. And the unpredictable factor of weather, such as a summer thunderstorm, is another major variable contributing to accidents on otherwise optimally safe roadways, he pointed out.
“Those are things that have to be taken into consideration,” he said. “There’s a lot of nuances on how crash reports come together.”
Accident reports only provide a rough snapshot to a particular roadway’s safety, Mullenax cautioned. However, additional observation and study are often necessary to fully understand what the traffic-accident data might reveal or how it might mislead, he pointed out.
“Sometimes you have to really work with the crash data to understand the location of where a crash exactly happened,” he said.
With those considerations in mind, here are seven sections of roadways in Jefferson County with the highest accident rates over the five years reviewed by the HEPMPO study of reported accidents.