KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A new study released by a Springfield law firm suggests Kansas City may have the most dangerous intersections in the state of Missouri.
Released by Douglas, Haun & Heidemann, the study used the most recent crash numbers (2015) from the Missouri Highway Patrol. The data was then used to create a “Collision Danger Index” for each listed intersection.
Nearly one-third of the dangerous intersections listed throughout the state and four of the top 10 were in Kansas City.
While the number one most dangerous intersection was in Maryland Heights with a Danger Index of 293, number two on the list was I-70 and Blue Ridge Cutoff with a Danger Index of 282. That intersection was home to 95 accidents in 2015, injuring 59 people and killing one.
Below are the other Kansas City intersections listed in the top 10:
6. Front Street and I-435 (181 Danger Index)
9. Holmes and I-435 (155 Danger Index)
10. Gregory and Highway 71 (152 Danger Index)
"Some of the intersections may be overly congested, which might contribute to higher accident rates, injury rates or fatality rates. But it may also be intersection design and public awareness,” said Craig Heidemann of Douglas, Haun & Heidemann, P.C.
Heidemann is part of the law firm that released the study. The firm also specializes in car accident law.
"Any time you try and put an unlimited number of drivers through a finite intersection I think you're going to have issues,” he told 41 Action News during a phone interview.
While the numbers from the study come directly from police and have been confirmed by the Mid-America Regional Council, Heidemann also admits the numbers are purely crash results and not crash rates.
"I would question honestly, the results, because it's not based on volume and rate,” said Derek Olson, district traffic engineer for MoDOT.
Olson said that while they plan to look further into the safety of the listed ‘dangerous intersections,’ MoDOT focuses more on which intersections have higher crash rates, which takes into account the amount of accidents per cars driving through the intersection. It may also explain why I-70 and Blue Ridge Cutoff has such a high Danger Index, considering the area gets very congested on game days.
One surprise to the study was to see that the most dangerous intersection listed, along with No. 6 (Front St. and I-435) both have ‘diverging diamond’ intersections, an engineering technique meant to improve traffic flow and safety.
Olsen told 41 Action News, whether it be lack of knowing the crash rates or not reading specific police crash reports, there must be other factors that have contributed to the high Danger Indexes. According to Olsen, their studies show that diverging diamonds enhance safety.
"We are experiencing, based on our studies and MU's studies and data, a safety benefit with DDI intersections,” said Olsen.
So what are trends both Olsen and Heidemann continue to see regarding crashes?
"About ninety percent of crashes do involve some sort of driver error. So we're constantly working on the engineering side but we're also working to educate the public,” said Olsen.
Heidemann agreed that the firm sees more distracted driving than anything.
"Inattention and probably just ignoring traffic control signals are probably two of the most prevalent causes of intersection collisions,” he said.
No matter the root cause of the thousands of crashes that occur at dangerous intersections each year, Heidemann hopes the numbers serve as a wakeup call to lawmakers in Jefferson City.
"I think the Missouri Department of Transportation is committed to making the intersections as safe as they can with the budget that they have. In the area of our new government in Jefferson City, I think they need to prioritize intersection safety and make sure that funding challenges don't negatively affect the safety of drivers,” he said.
According to the study, at least 810 people were injured or killed in Kansas City’s ‘most dangerous’ intersections in 2015.