The city of St. Joseph recently announced a plan to replace most of the traffic lights in the downtown area with stop signs. The decision provides a great opportunity to look at intersection safety and how it can impact the number of car accidents that happen.
St. Joseph to Replace Stop Lights with Stop Signs
Starting this week on Faraon Street, the Public Works Department will begin replacing most of the traffic lights in downtown St. Joseph with stop signs. The plan is to slowly replace all but two of them between now and early spring. The only traffic lights that will remain when the project is done will be at the intersection of 13th Street and Frederick Avenue, and at 10th Street and Frederick Avenue, near city hall.
The project has been in the planning stage for nearly a year. Last December, a study by the Public Works Department had found that the traffic volumes and the turning tendencies at most St. Joseph intersections did not warrant traffic signals. The study recommended changing most of them to stop signs.
Intersections are Where Car Accidents Tend to Happen
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 36 percent of car accidents happen in intersections. While this might sound low, it is important to recall that intersections are only a tiny portion of the roadway. The percentage of car accidents that happen in them is outsized.
Traffic Control is Not Necessarily Traffic Safety
Contrary to popular belief, controlling the flow of traffic does not necessarily mean that the roadway will be safer. For example, traffic safety advocates in New York City have frequently found that adding stop signs or stop lights actually increased crash rates. Drivers often speed to pass through a light before it turns red, or race between stops in order to make up for perceived lost time. If too many traffic control measures are taken, drivers may even decide to avoid these roads, entirely, bringing new dangers to other side streets.
That is not to say that traffic lights or stop signs are never the correct answer, though. Each intersection presents a nearly unique set of circumstances, difficulties, and concerns. For example, pedestrian safety, while a major priority for many intersections in New York City, is far less of a concern for intersections on the Belt Highway.
In this particular case, it is actually the lack of traffic that has served as the impetus for the change. Traffic lights hold cars based on a timing system, without regard to actual traffic on the roadway. Switching to stop signs would allow drivers to take more control of when they move.
St. Joseph Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
A very real possibility is that the change from lights to signs increases the number of car accidents in downtown St. Joseph a bit. Every time a driver makes their own decision, it increases the chances of a crash. Giving them the discretion to choose when it is safe to proceed, like a stop sign does, will likely mean that more bad decisions are made.
If you have been hurt in a car accident in St. Joseph or elsewhere in western Missouri, like Springfield or Kansas City, call the personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office at (816) 875-9373 or contact them online.