A third of Missouri’s 200 most dangerous intersections can be found in the Kansas City metro area, according to a study based on the state’s crash data from 2015.
Of the top 10 most dangerous intersections, four can be found in Kansas City, including the intersection at Blue Ridge Cutoff and Interstate 70.
That intersection came in as the second-most dangerous intersection in the state, according to the study published by the law firm of Douglas Haun Heidemann, which has offices in Bolivar and Springfield.
“One key area of our practice is personal injury, and you see how accidents affect and can have tragic effects on people’s lives,” said Nathan Duncan, a litigation partner with the law firm.
Two intersections that use a newer, safer design — the diverging diamond interchange — were among the most dangerous in the law firm’s study, but Missouri transportation officials say that’s because the study is flawed in that it didn’t include traffic volume to create crash rates.
Making the roads safer should be a goal for everybody, Duncan said.
“We thought that identifying some of the most dangerous places for drivers would be helpful information for everybody on the road. … Ideally, I’d like for our personal injury practice to be put out of business.”
The Blue Ridge Cutoff/I-70 intersection is only slightly safer than the intersection at Interstate 270 and Dorsett Road in Maryland Heights, Mo., which is the most dangerous one in the state.
The study analyzed more than 148,000 crash records from the Missouri Highway Patrol to identify the 200 most dangerous intersections in the state.
The study looked at total accidents, injuries and fatalities and computed a danger index. The formula counted noninjury wrecks as one point, injury crashes as three and fatal wrecks as 10 points.
With 45 dangerous intersections each, Kansas City and St. Louis tied for the cities with the most on the list. However, only one St. Louis intersection — Interstate 44 at Jefferson Avenue — made the top 10.
“That is one of the interesting things,” Duncan said. “Even though Kansas City is somewhat smaller than St. Louis, it did have in the top 10 a greater number of dangerous intersections. It had more accident collisions than St. Louis or Springfield.”
Other cities in the metro area that had intersections on the list were Independence, with 10 intersections; Blue Springs, three; Gladstone, one; Lee’s Summit, one; Liberty, two; and Raytown, two.
The study doesn’t take into consideration the number of wrecks versus traffic volume. Duncan said they wanted to make the results “fairly digestible” so they didn’t come up with a complicated algorithm.
“Obviously, the higher the volume, the greater the risk for injury,” Duncan said. “It might not be the perfect study, but it’s instructive.”
Derek Olson, district traffic engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Kansas City District, said he applauds the law firm and other businesses for being interested in highway safety. But Olson was concerned that traffic volumes were not taken into account.
Typically when traffic engineers look at whether a section of road is dangerous, they calculate a crash rate, which includes traffic volume as part of the equation.
What people can take away from the law firm’s study, Olson said, is that whenever they get into a vehicle, they need to take the utmost care and caution. For traffic safety information, check out savemolives.com.
Jenna Murrell, content marketing specialist with San Diego data visualization firm 1Point21 Interactive, which conducted the study, said that in an ideal scenario, they would have liked to have had traffic volumes, but the Highway Patrol didn’t have the data for all the intersections.
Transportation officials think the list would be different if traffic volume had been considered. For example, two intersections that used a diverging diamond interchange were among the most dangerous. That interchange design is used in areas of heavy traffic as a way to increase capacity and decrease congestion.
Those interchanges include the Maryland Heights interchange at Dorsett and I-270, which was the most dangerous, and the intersection at Front Street and Interstate 435 in Kansas City. That interchange was the sixth most dangerous.
“As effective as they are for reducing traffic backlog, it seems the drivers aren’t accustomed to them, and perhaps that is why we see more accidents there,” Duncan said. “Inexperienced drivers or even experienced drivers not knowing exactly how to navigate those.”
A recent University of Missouri traffic study on diverging diamond interchanges in Missouri, however, found that they are reducing crashes. The study found that fatal and injury crashes decreased by 63 percent, and total crashes decreased by 41 percent.
“That’s really good news for MoDOT and for folks who travel our highways,” said Olsen of MoDOT.
Still, people need to give driving the attention it deserves so that they get home safely, Olsen said.
“I’ll just re-emphasis to buckle up, don’t text and drive, and give the driving experience the respect it deserves,” he said. “Arrive alive.”