If you’ve cruised through Prairie Village in the last week or two, you might have noticed a new sign at the intersection of Mission Road and 75th Street.
The electronic sign urges drivers to slow down and notes that this intersection, just outside Shawnee Mission East High School, has the highest concentration of accidents in Prairie Village — but that’s only part of the story.
Traffic Unit Sergeant James Carney of the Prairie Village Police Department arranged for the sign. It’s part of his strategy for making citizens more aware of pressing issues, especially when the department is about to step up enforcement of those problems.
Carney said that when the public works department isn’t using the electric signs for roadwork, he borrows them and places them in different places around the city, on a rotating basis.
Recently, he had them up elsewhere in Prairie Village to encourage drivers to follow the seatbelt laws. The sign was moved Monday to the Prairie Village Shopping Center area to warn motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
In the case of 75th and Mission, the traffic statistics show that this intersection had 18 accidents in 2011; 14 in 2012; and 11 in 2013. That’s about 2.6 percent of the city’s total reported accidents for 2013 and 10.6 percent of the accidents related to intersections that occurred that year.
It may not sound like a lot, but in a city that cover just over six miles of ground, that’s still significant.
Carney said he’s glad the statistics seem to be going down, but there’s still room for improvement. Most of the accidents at 75th Street and Mission Road take place because people aren’t paying attention and rear-end vehicles stopped at a red light.
Although Carney couldn’t confirm technology was a factor in all of those accidents, “we do write an awful lot of tickets for texting,” he said. He called the rear-end accidents “preventable” and a “waste of money” for the drivers involved and for the city.
As for the electric signs, Carney said he hasn’t heard too much about them, although one resident did call to tell him that his sign was a distraction to drivers. Carney puts the sign in the same league with the KC Scout signs that hang over area highways and said he doesn’t think those signs are distracting too many people.
Each year, he analyzes accident data to determine the intersections that need the most attention, either from police patrols or from city engineers. In one case, the city made pavement at one intersection rougher after seeing the data analysis, so that fewer vehicles would slip on its pavement on rainy days.
Another change coming as a result of the traffic studies is a flashing yellow left turn arrow at Somerset Drive and Nall Avenue. This will replace a green left turn arrow, as drivers weren’t looking closely enough at the signal to be sure it was a green arrow and not just a solid green, which requires turning vehicles to yield to oncoming traffic, Carney said.
Overall, each year, Carney’s traffic analysis leads the police and city to concentrate their resources on about eight to 10 intersections for the next year. Unfortunately, Carney said, some intersections will make a reappearance on the next year’s list after missing a year, as problem often reappear once the extra enforcement goes away.