Michael Bernardo looked outside the window of the jewelry store he works at last week and saw a familiar sight: fire trucks and police cars. It was a car wreck near the Old Boynton Road and Congress Avenue intersection.
It happens there once or twice a week, the diamond department manager at Jared the Galleria of Jewelry said. So he wasn’t surprised to hear the intersection had the most wrecks of all Boynton intersections this past year.
And it’s not a shock to Boynton Beach Police Sgt. Phillip Hawkins who said he’s had to stop there “multiple” times over the past week while he headed to-and-from work because of crashes.
But it’s not the intersection that’s the problem, Hawkins and other traffic officials insist.
“The drivers need to improve,” Hawkins said. “I just think it’s people not really paying attention.”
Old Boynton and Congress was the scene of 61 wrecks in 2014, according to a Palm Beach Post investigation based on Palm Beach County traffic records. Close behind was W. Boynton Beach Boulevard and Congress, which had 57. In both areas, the majority of the wrecks were rear-end crashes. The Old Boynton intersection had 34 and the Boynton Beach Boulevard intersection had 36.
That’s “what we expect,” said Mo Al-Turk, Palm Beach County’s traffic engineering operations manager. “Most highly-traversed intersections that are signalized, they tend to show a higher number of rear-end accidents. That’s the nature of the beast.”
If county officials receive concerns or complaints about an intersection, they look at the site and see if anything needs to be changed. But in this case, there is no “red flag,” Al-Turk said.
The area is about to change, however, and the intersection is likely to get busier. More than 1,000 new residences are coming to Old Boynton Road just east of the intersection through the Cortina project. The project has been approved, and the developers say they will build an east-west connecting road from Renaissance Commons Boulevard to Congress Avenue, which would avoid Old Boynton. And there are plans for a traffic signal at Old Boynton and Renaissance Commons Boulevard.
But, there’s that catch 22. Traffic signals tend to produce more rear-end crashes because of the different mentalities of drivers, Al-Turk said. Some might be more aggressive and drive faster to beat the light, while others are more reserved and instead slow down. Plus, drivers are distracted, he said.
Distracted drivers is something Hawkins has seen plenty of while patrolling. For example, he was heading east on Boynton Beach Boulevard near BJ’s off Congress Avenue about seven years ago and was drawn to a brand new Mercedes next to him. But it was the image of the driver reading a newspaper that is stuck in his mind.
“It was opened all the way across the steering wheel and he was driving and trying to peak up above it and read,” Hawkins said. “I stopped that gentleman and spoke to him about it. He goes, ‘Why are you stopping me?”
Drivers putting on make-up. Texting. Trying to discipline their children. He’s seen it all.
In general, Congress Avenue is one of the busiest roads in Boynton, Hawkins said. But the road is manageable if drivers simply follow the speed limit and obey the traffic signals.
Congress Avenue intersections made the top four in terms of wrecks in the city. Behind Boynton Beach Boulevard and Congress is where Congress meets Hypoluxo Road with 53 wrecks, and Congress and Gateway had 52, according to the records.
Daniel Gonzalez, who owns Embroid Me off of Congress, understands why Gateway made the list. His 7-year-old son was riding his bike at the Gateway intersection last weekend and was nearly hit by a car.
“There’s always an accident there,” said Johnson Pierre, the store’s operator. “That one’s bad.”
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