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What are Palm Beach County’s most dangerous intersections?


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.




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