There may be nothing more dangerous for a driver to do in Palm Beach County than stop at a heavily-congested intersection, where hundreds of crashes take place every year.
Take the junction of Forest Hill Boulevard and State Road 7, which ranked seventh in the county with 90 crashes in 2014.
With 31 total lanes approaching from all four directions and more than 90,000 daily trips, there’s plenty of room for error and wrecks. Chaos reigns, especially during rush hour when tempers are short and the cacophony of honking horns is prevalent.
No crashes were recorded during a half-hour visit to the intersection recently by a Palm Beach Post reporter , but there was also no shortage of close calls.
The three northbound turning lanes from westbound Forest Hill Boulevard appeared particularly tricky for drivers. At least twice, drivers drifted into adjacent turning lanes and narrowly avoided side-swiping another vehicle.
Impatience was as evident as inattention. One driver nearly plowed into the back of another who had slowed after the turn signal went to yellow. A few minutes later, a motorist in the outside turning lane steered into the middle turning lane to go around a driver, who never noticed because he was looking down at his cell phone. The maneuver nearly resulted in a collision.
Christine Balicki works at Tipsy Salon Spa and Lounge, which sits in a shopping complex near the intersection in Wellington. She said pedestrians, bikers and the nearby bus stop all make driving in the area even more nerve-wracking.
“We moved here (16 years ago) because it wasn’t congested,” Balicki said. “Now it’s so congested we can’t wait to move.”
The defending champ of bad intersections in Palm Beach County has long been Okeechobee Boulevard and Military Trail, the scene of 141 crashes in 2014. Stepped-up traffic enforcement helped reduce the total number of crashes from 162 in 2013, but the intersection remains the likeliest place in the county for a driver to crash.
More than 100,000 drivers travel every day through the intersection, which is also among the county’s most dangerous for pedestrians.
“We moved out of Palm Beach County 20 years ago,” Arnie Knudsen Collins said. “It’s nice to see nothing has changed.”
While crashes at the county’s 10 most dangerous intersections are plentiful, they tend not to involve serious injury or death. Mo Al-Turk, the county’s manager of traffic engineering operations, said more than 50 percent of the crashes at intersections are rear-end collisions caused by inattentive or distracted drivers.
“There’s nothing wrong with the intersections,” said Yvonne Tepper, a Lake Worth resident. “It’s just that people don’t pay attention to the roads or the traffic laws.”
Boynton Beach Sgt. Phil Hawkins agrees. Hawkins has been working for the department since 1996 and has seen it all from drivers during that time. He’s witnessed them putting on makeup, texting and disciplining their children while behind the wheel.
Several years ago, Hawkins said he was heading east on Boynton Beach Boulevard and Congress Avenue when he spied a driver reading a newspaper.
“It was opened all the way across the steering wheel and he was driving and trying to peek up above it and read,” Hawkins said. “I stopped that gentleman and spoke to him about it. He goes, ‘Why are you stopping me?’”
Royal Palm Beach Village manager Ray Liggins said stopping red-light runners might help lower the crash count. The intersection of Southern Boulevard and State Road 7 in Royal Palm Beach ranked second in the county last year with 120 crashes. Liggins thinks red-light cameras might help the problem.
“I am a strong believer that if intersections were set up with them and they were fair — it would really reduce the number of accidents,” Liggins said.
There are other technologies that could also help, said Aleksandar Stevanovic, the director of FAU’s Lab for Adaptive Traffic Operations & Management.
Cooperative Intersection Collision Avoidance Systems uses vehicle-based and infrastructure-based technologies to warn drivers approaching an intersection of potential trouble, Stevanovic said.
“Not too many agencies around the country could find funding to support such high-end applications, but some time in the future, they will become reality everywhere,” Stevanovic said.
But space-age gadgets are what’s necessary to make intersections safer, according to some.
“Do you really think it’s the intersections causing accidents or the drivers not paying attention, on phone and texting?” said Paula Born of Lake Worth. “Really. Pay attention people.”
Staff writers Alexandra Seltzer, Tony Doris, Olivia Hitchcock , Bill DiPaolo, Kevin D. Thompson and Sarah Peters contributed to this story.
1. Okeechobee Boulevard and N. Military Trail
City: West Palm Beach
2014 crashes: 141
Why it’s dangerous: The county’s most dangerous intersection for several years running, mostly because of the volume of traffic. More than 100,000 vehicles pass through the intersection every day, according to the county. The good news is that there was a reduction in crashes from 2013 when 162 accidents were recorded. The intersection is also the worst for pedestrian crashes.
2. Southern Boulevard and State Road 7
City: Royal Palm Beach
2014 crashes: 120
Why it’s dangerous: Surrounded by shopping plazas, it had twice the number of crashes as any other in Royal Palm Beach. It’s dangerous not only for vehicles but bicyclists and pedestrians, too. “It’s horrible, it’s too many cars,” said Antwaine Haywood, who was struck while crossing the intersection on his bike in July.
3. S. Military Trail and Forest Hill Boulevard
City: West Palm Beach
2014 crashes: 114
Why it’s dangerous: One of the most accident prone in the county, it’s gotten slightly better. In 2007, it ranked No. 1 in the county with 195 accidents. By 2010, the intersection was second with 114 crashes.
4. W. Atlantic Ave. and Congress Avenue
City: Delray Beach
2014 crashes: 107
Why it’s dangerous: Sitting just west of Interstate 95, this spot can back up quickly, especially around morning rush hour with nearby Atlantic High School. The Atlantic Avenue/S. Military Trail intersection, less than two miles to the west, ranked tied for No. 14 in Palm Beach County last year with 81 crashes.
5. Glades Road and State Road 7
City: Unincorporated Boca Raton
2014 crashes: 96
Why it’s dangerous: Glades Road shows up three times on the Top 10 list, led by this one in unincorporated Boca Raton. Several big box department stores, the Regal Cinema Shadowood 16 movie theater and the proximity of Florida’s Turnpike conspire for a constant flow of heavy traffic.
6. Glades Road and St. Andrew’s Boulevard
City: Boca Raton
2014 crashes: 92
Why it’s dangerous: Centered between Florida’s Turnpike and Interstate 95 both producing tons of traffic. Add to that the estimated 11 million visitors to the 220 stores at the nearby Town Center of Boca Raton and it’s a perfect storm of traffic. Managing to drive on Glades Road between I-95 west to State Road 7 while passing St. Andrew’s Boulevard isn’t easy. Last year there were 275 total crashes between the three intersections.
7. Forest Hill Boulevard and State Road 7
2014 crashes: 90
Why it’s dangerous: Only one intersection in Wellington cracks the list of the county’s 80 most dangerous. But it’s a bad one. Shopping complexes and the Wellington Regional Medical Center bring many cars into the area. With 31 total lanes approaching from all four directions and more than 90,000 daily trips, there’s plenty of room for error and crashes. “We moved here (16 years ago) because it wasn’t congested,” said Christine Balicki, a longtime resident. “Now it’s so congested we can’t wait to move.”
8. Glades Road and Airport Road
City: Boca Raton
2014 crashes: 87
Why it’s dangerous: This intersection has had the highest rate of crashes in Boca Raton for many years thanks to Boca Raton High School, Florida Atlantic University and a popular shopping mall in the vicinity. The proximity of the northbound I-95 exit makes it a nightmare during rush hour. It should improve once the Spanish River I-95 interchange is finished.
9. Lake Victoria Gardens Avenue and PGA Boulevard
City: Palm Beach Gardens
2014 crashes: 87
Why it’s dangerous: Many of the crashes near Downtown at the Gardens entertainment area and the Gardens Mall are rear-end collisions during peak commuting times. The state is planning to redo the asphalt at the eastbound section of PGA Boulevard at the approach to Lake Victoria Gardens Avenue because it’s not stopping cars as well as it should, especially when the road is slick from weather.
10. Palmetto Park Road and Powerline Road
City: Unincorporated Boca Raton
2014 crashes: 83
Why it’s dangerous: For those traveling north into Palm Beach County, it doesn’t take long to find an intersection trouble spot. Right and left turning lanes result in plenty of rear-end collisions. The Boca Raton area has four intersections among the county’s Top 10 in crashes, starting with this one just north of the Broward County border. The Boynton Beach Boulevard/S. Jog Road and Lake Worth Road/S. Military Trail intersections also registered 83 crashes in 2014.
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WHY SO DANGEROUS? Read about the top 10 most dangerous intersections and what makes them so perilous at www.mypalmbeachpost.com/intersections/