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Jeff Ward: The Worst Geneva Intersections of 2011—And What To Do About It

In the words of one of my favorite TV characters, "Let's be careful out there!"

As is often the case on Geneva Patch at this time of year, it’s time to review those infamous intersections where it might pay off to pay a little more attention. After all, what self-respecting Geneva citizen would ever want to be reduced to a mere statistic?

In what will come as no surprise to any Genevans who regularly risks their lives in an attempt to traverse it, that dreaded Kaneville/Keslinger and Randall Road junction topped our 2011 worst-intersection list one more time.

And it’s getting worse! Despite Geneva’s best engineering efforts to stem the collision tide, the number of crashes actually jumped from 32 to 43! That’s a statistically significant 34 percent increase that comes out to one accident every 8.5 days.

From the original red-light-camera studies we already know that most of the accidents there are of the rear-end variety. Though I certainly applaud the city’s proactive posture in erecting those northbound “Be prepared to stop” blinking yellow lights, when the underlying issue is distracted drivers, all they really did was give those motorists one more thing to ignore.

Though I have no specific evidence, I’m blaming impaired northbound downhill cell phone drivers for this appreciable accident spike. Thus, as I’ve said before, our only hope to rein in the carnage at that intersection would be take NTSB up on its recommendation to ban cell phone use by all vehicle drivers.

After that nefarious crossing, everything else is chickenfeed. Because the intersection that moved from No. 4 to No. 2, Route 38 and Kirk Road, saw just 28 crashes. That’s a whopping 35 percent decline over our all-to-obvious No. 1.

Coming in a close third was Fabyan Parkway at Kirk with 27 accidents, down one from last year.

Since those two junctions saw virtually the same numbers, and Geneva Police Department Cmdr. Eric Passarelli said majority of them were also rear-enders, other than our vehicle cell phone prohibition, I see no hope for any improvement at either of those two busy intersections either.

Our last two crossings do get a bit more interesting.

While Fargo Boulevard at Randall dropped from third to fourth, despite its heinous red-light cameras, it still saw 24 accidents, down just three from 2010. Anyone with a keen perception of the obvious already knows that red-light cameras don’t prevent accidents and, in this case, I think they may actually cause them.

Both my wife and I have been driving through that intersection, with the north/south lights in all their green glory, when all the sudden you’re subjected to an enormous blinding flash. It’s negligible on a bright sunny day, but on our typical overcast midwinter afternoons, it’s incredibly disconcerting.

So not only is this red-light camera not doing its job, but I wonder just how many accidents it’s causing!

And before you try to tell me the camera at Williamsburg Avenue is working—that intersection dropped from fifth place to seventh with 15 crashes—not so fast! Given the increasing popularity of the Geneva Commons, you often have to wait two cycles just to get through that blasted light so no one can go nearly fast enough to cause that kind of problem.

On the other hand, Bricher Road and Randall, with its far-more-complex and dangerous layout, saw a mere 10 accidents without the big-brother benefit of a red-light camera.

But our biggest 2011 surprise was Gleneagle Drive at Randall which came out of nowhere to take the No. 5 spot with 17 collisions. Though Passarelli was only willing to speculate as to whether the eternal Randall and Fabyan construction was the culprit, I’ll be the first one to say that's it exactly!

With those insistent backups, apparently, drivers who try to dodge down to Gleneagle to Bent Tree Drive aren't always successful.

And now they say this endless county project will linger through all of next summer! In my database consulting days, I wrote a program that processed construction bonds so I have some expertise in this area. For a single intersection job to span two full years is a lot like a devious Chicago cab driver taking you to O’Hare Airport via Rockford.

So, in the end, Gleneagle at Randall is the only intersection we actually can do something about! Someone needs to get on those construction companies’ posteriors and hit ‘em with all sorts of penalties if they don’t finish up the project in a more timely manner.

Though we should never cease in our efforts to reduce the number of Geneva accidents and save lives, our current tactics are nothing more than spitting into the wind. Even a cursory glance at the recent Geneva totals reveals just how uncannily consistent they are:

2011: 1,039 accidents

2010: 995

2009: 1,034

2008: 1,070

With the obvious four-year annual average sitting squarely at 1,034.5 accidents, the standard deviation is negligible. Put more simply, no year deviated from the average by more than 3.7 percent.

When you consider that the Geneva administrators and police officers who came up with our current accident-prevention measures are no dummies, and so many of these accidents are rear-end collisions, it all points toward distracted driving.

And you already know!

Paul Bryant January 23, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Maybe the accident increase at Kaneville/Keslinger and Randall is also because of the Fabyan and Randall construction. Keslinger is the next thru road north and though not an ideal alternate route, it is one none-the-less. Also, my understanding is at least some of the delays with the Fabyan and Randall construction are caused by AT&T being very slow with rerouting their cables. While not defending the road constructions companies, this one appears to be at least partially on AT&T.
Colin C. January 23, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Jeff, We recently spent some time in southern Italy. Stayed in Sorrento while touring. There were no stoplights and few stop signs which, it seems, are regarded as mere suggestions. The roads are narrow and people park whereever they please, making them much narrower. There seem to be hundreds of cars, trucks, scooters and pedestrians all trying to get through each intersection, all at the same time. Somehow they manage; going where there is a bit of space, waiting when there is not. I have no statistics but we saw no accidents while we were there. Even more amazing, given the Italian reputation for volatility, we saw not one single incident of "road rage' in situations that would cause guns to be blazing in the US. It was most interesting. Also interesting was the heretofore unknown fact (to me at least) that a full sized bus can be driven, on narrow mountain roads, in much the same manner as one might drive a Ferrari.
Jeff Ward January 23, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Colin, As you know, I've used Italy as an example of the correct way to treat pedestrians in crosswalks. If you step out into a crosswalk on Via Cassia, Rome's equivalent of Randall Road, rush hour traffic comes to a complete halt and you can cross the street. But they are nutty drivers! Jeff
Colin C. January 23, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Our daughter, who lives in England and has spent a lot of time in Italy, instructed us that when we, as pedestrians, want to cross the street we should just put our heads down ans walk across. the secret is not to make eye contact with the drivers. They (she said) will stop. It takes a bit of nerve and a lot of faith but it seems to work.
Justin Eggar January 23, 2012 at 08:21 PM
That's 100% correct... I spent 2 years in Italy and was never hit once using the duck and run approach. On the other hand, a week in Greece and I got nailed on my moped. You are right though, road rage over there is expressed with some beeping and the occasional "che coza fai" (it's been a while, that could be way off). Over here it all too often ends in somebody getting stabbed or w/e else.

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