Lake Worth’s dangerous intersections mainly driver error

About a year ago, Heather Brassner was crossing North Dixie Highway to visit CVS, when a car going west on Lucerne Avenue almost sent her to the hospital — or the morgue.

“I had to slam my hands on the car before it hit me,” said Brassner, a co-owner of Art Link International on Lucerne Avenue. “My life is worth more than someone running a red light.”

Brassner, along with several other Lake Worth residents, say Lucerne Avenue and North Dixie Highway has long been a trouble spot for motorists — and pedestrians.

“I see and hear the accidents all the time,” said City Manager Michael Bornstein, whose City Hall office is on North Dixie Highway. “I can just sit here and watch the near misses. It’s pretty crazy.”

Michael Chase Flack calls the area “an intersection within an intersection.”

“There’s a lot going on there,” he said.

Not surprisingly, that intersection has been ranked the second highest for crashes in the city, according to a Palm Beach Post investigation based on Palm Beach County traffic records.

In 2014, there were 34 crashes there, three fewer than the city’s top crash site — South Dixie Highway and 6th Avenue South.

Other sites with the most wrecks included 10th Avenue North, southbound I-95 to 10th Avenue North eastbound, southbound I-95 (32 crashes); Barnett Drive and 10th Avenue North (30) and Lake and Lucerne avenues (29).

Mo Al-Turk, manager of traffic engineering operations for the Florida Department of Transportation, said those numbers aren’t alarming.

“Most of those accidents are rear-end accidents and those are typical and to be expected,” he said. “I don’t see any revealing pattern or a safety concern that requires us to look into.”

The type of pattern Al-Turk said he’s looking for is a high volume of a certain type of accident, such as left-turn collisions.

Al-Turk attributed most of the crashes to more passive motorists who slow down for yellow lights and who are driving in front of those who are more aggressive and don’t slow down for traffic signals.

He also said drivers are often distracted because they’re using their cellphones.

“They don’t see that a guy in front of them has stopped,” Al-Turk said. “These aren’t the most dangerous intersections because that implies there are some safety flaws that are being ignored.”

Resident Yvonne Tepper agrees.

“There’s nothing wrong with the intersections,” she said. “It’s just that people don’t pay attention to the roads or the traffic laws.”

Another intersection that has some residents concerned, even though it ranked 14th on the city’s top crash list with 14 accidents, is South A Street and 6th Avenue South.

“My community is a walking community,” said Yolanda Vasquez, who lives in the area and walks her kids to school. “I was almost flattened by an 18-wheeler.”

Vasquez said she’s been working closely with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to make sure a deputy is on site to help kids cross the street safely.

FDOT’s Traffic Operations Office recently conducted a road audit of 6th Avenue South to South Dixie Highway, where Al-Turk said many traffic signs were faded or missing. He said there wasn’t adequate lighting as well as overgrown landscaping blocking traffic signs, issues Al-Turk said have since been corrected.

Bornstein also said the city has been in discussions with the Metropolitan Planning Organization about redesigning Dixie Highway for better traffic flow.

Resident Kurt Hyde recommended traffic circles, similar to those found in Europe.

“Not only does it keep traffic moving, but it helps with pollution,” he said.

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