City responds, rebukes ‘dangerous intersections’ study

A young man crosses the street as traffic moves through the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Whites Canyon Road in November. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Officials with the city of Santa Clarita believe a recent report on “dangerous” intersections in California, which appeared in a Nov. 14 Signal article, does not equitably compare intersections throughout the state nor fairly rank intersections in Santa Clarita.

The study from Etsey & Bloomberger, a personal injury law firm, was based on recorded traffic collisions by the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) in 2015.

The firm analyzed more than 435,000 traffic collisions and formed a ranked list based on accidents, injuries and fatalities of intersections with more than 10 incidents during the year.  In total, 444 intersections were analyzed with seven of these intersections located in Santa Clarita.

According to traffic officials with the city of Santa Clarita, this method of measuring accidents and “dangerous” intersections is not an accurate comparative analysis of intersections located in suburban, urban and rural locations throughout the state.

“Intersections in the middle of the state have no traffic like ours,” said Andrew Yi, Santa Clarita’s traffic engineer.  “Purely looking at the numbers… it doesn’t give a good comparative analysis.”

Yi said that larger intersections, like Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Road, have a larger possibility of a collision simply because of the number of cars that travel through the intersection.

For example, the intersection along Sierra Highway, which was ranked highest for Santa Clarita intersections at No. 54 on Etsey & Bloomberger’s list, has 81,000 cars enter it daily.

Yi and other traffic officials said the number of collisions that occur based on volume and rate at the intersection are below the state average.

“Sierra Highway is lower in terms of collisions per year based on the Office of Traffic Safety,” Yi said.  “Sierra Highway is below the state average.”

Jerrid McKenna, management analyst for Santa Clarita, said that there might be a disparity between what agencies report to SWIRTS.

“Other cities and other agencies might not be providing the level of details that we are,” he said.

In total, the city’s traffic officials review and analyze 196 signalized intersections within 68-square-miles of the city, according to Gail Morgan, communications manager for Santa Clarita.

The city said it uses quantitative and qualitative measures to evaluate intersections accidents by looking at frequency, type and rate as well as the cause and effect of incidents.

“We are proactive in terms of how we look at it and address it,” Yi said.

Now, the larger problem for the city is distracted drivers with an increased rate of solo drivers hitting parked cars and fixed objects.

“Behavior is the main focus right now… and what we’re emphasizing,” McKenna said.

Residents with traffic or intersections are able to share their thoughts with city officials through the Resident Service Center (RSC), which has received 19,000 total requests this year, 500 of which being traffic requests.

“We depend upon our residents to tell us their thoughts and ideas and we take that into account,” Morgan said.

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