Special report: The most dangerous Scottsdale intersections

A total of 9,263 vehicle accidents occurred in 2015 and 2016. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard has yielded more vehicle collisions than any other roadway segment in the City of Scottsdale in recent years.

The iconic thoroughfare garnered a total of 103 accidents in a two-year time span, a report compiling traffic data for 2015 and 2016 shows.

Similarly, the same roadway segment, specifically from Greenway/Hayden Road to Hayden Road on Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, topped the 2014 collision list, with 53 accidents in fiscal year 2013-14.

A car accident can be, at best, an annoyance to your day and the chagrin of other drivers who may be delayed from the mishap. The accidents can very easily, however, be life changing in many ways for the motorists involved.

Of the 9,263 collisions that occurred in Scottsdale in 2015 and 2016, 134 involved bicyclists and 123 involved pedestrians.

(Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Traffic Volume and Collision Data reports are published by the city of Scottsdale every two years. The most recent report is the 2015-16 report, as the 2017-18 report won’t be released until fall 2019, city officials say.

Through a public records request, the Independent obtained the two most recent reports, which compiles collision data for the city’s intersections, traffic volumes and lane volumes.

While the Scottsdale population has increased from 199,224 in 1998 to 237,969 in 2016, the number of collisions in 1998 were 4,566 compared to 4,746 in 2016. The collision rate per 1,000 population has decreased from 22.92 to 19.94 in that time period, the report shows.

The highest amount of collisions for that 19-year snapshot was in 2006, with a total of 5,130, although only even numbered statistics are provided.

The most dangerous time of the day for vehicle and bicyclist collisions is around 5-6 p.m., the report states, while pedestrian accidents most frequently happened 10-11 a.m. and 6-7 p.m.

For 2015 and 2016, per the report, the Top 10 areas for collisions were:

  1. Frank Lloyd Wright from Greenway/Hayden to Hayden: 103 collisions
  2. Shea from Scottsdale to Hayden: 72 collisions
  3. Scottsdale from Osborn to Indian School: 61 collisions
  4. Scottsdale from Indian School to Camelback: 61 collisions
  5. Camelback from Scottsdale to Miller: 60 collisions
  6. Scottsdale from Camelback to Chaparral: 56 collisions
  7. Frank Lloyd Wright from Scottsdale to Greenway/Hayden: 55 collisions
  8. Hayden from Thomas to Osborn: 54 collisions
  9. Shea from Hayden to 101 Freeway: 50 collisions
  10. Scottsdale from Princess to Mayo: 49 collisions.

Scottsdale Traffic Center officials point out that while Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard has the most accidents, its collision rate ranks as 25th in the city.

All the collisions for the 2015-16 report show 0.3 percent resulted in fatality; 2.9 percent resulted in incapacitating; 25.9 percent resulted in injury; and 70.9 percent had no injury or unknown.

Bicycle collisions for 2015-16 report resulted in 0 percent fatalities; 12.7 percent incapacitating; 14.9 percent no injury or unknown; and 72.4 percent injury.

Pedestrian collisions saw 5.7 percent fatality; 11.4 percent no injury or unknown; 23.6 percent incapacitating; and 59.3 percent injury.

In the 2013-14 report, the Top 10 areas for collisions were:

  1. Frank Lloyd Wright from Greenway/Hayden to Hayden: 53 collisions;
  2. Shea from Scottsdale to Hayden: 37 collisions;
  3. Shea from Hayden to 101 Freeway: 37 collisions;
  4. Scottsdale from Camelback to Chaparral: 34 collisions;
  5. Camelback from Scottsdale to Miller: 31 collisions;
  6. Scottsdale from Mountain View to Shea: 28 collisions;
  7. Shea from 101 Freeway to 90th: 28 collisions;
  8. Scottsdale from Princess to Mayo: 25 collisions;
  9. Greenway/Hayden from Scottsdale to Frank Lloyd Wright: 25 collisions;
  10. Scottsdale from Thomas to Osborn: 24 collisions.

In January, following a fatal pedestrian versus vehicle collision, the Scottsdale Police Department announced this was the seventh pedestrian fatality in 12 months.

Moreover, the Independent reported that a rise in fatal collisions — which saw nine in 2017 and 22 in 2018 — was cited as a reason for the Scottsdale City Council to accept a grant to purchase an aerial system to map and reconstruct collision scenes.

In a Jan. 15 report, city staff claimed the technology it is using to reconstruct, investigate and document collisions is outdated, thus prompting the need for the new system. Staff believe the new system would reduce the time a road is closed to perform the necessary tasks.

City staff cited how tourists and visitors frequent Scottsdale for its numerous events, leaving heavy traffic on its streets. Because of the volume of visitors, city staff say drivers under the influence go undetected, causing fatal collisions at times.

The Transportation Management Center’s wall of screens allows traffic engineers to observe local traffic. (File photo)

The eye in the sky

The Scottsdale Traffic Management Center, 9191 E. San Salvador Drive, can shift its focus on any area of Scottsdale at a moment’s notice and the control room’s floor-to-ceiling-wall of screens serves as the epicenter of traffic flow within city limits.

Said to be the “brain” behind the intelligent transportation system — or the cameras perched upon traffic lights — the high-tech organization’s goals include reducing traffic congestion, improving driver information and managing incidents that impact a motorist as they traverse along local thoroughfares.

Officials there say that they wouldn’t coin the Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard intersection as “dangerous” because the word can be quite subjective.

The transportation and traffic management center staff, through Public Affairs Director, Kelly Corsette, provided insight into how their departments calculate collisions and what happens when one occurs.

“We use both number of collisions and collision rate when determining when street segments have high incidents of collisions,” Mr. Corsette said.

“The collision rate takes into account the number of vehicles using the roadway and the length of the section. The 2016 Volume and Collision Data report identifies the Frank Lloyd Wright section from Greenway-Hayden to Hayden as having the 25th highest collision rate.”

Officials say the section is almost a mile long and has over 40,000 daily vehicles, so those have to be taken into consideration when comparing number of collisions.

To the city’s point, the collision rate is calculated by number of collisions, average daily traffic volume, time period and the length of the segment. The segment collision rate is expressed as collisions per million vehicles, the 2015-16 report states, and provides an equation.

When looking at intersections by collision rate, the Top 10 intersections for 2015 and 2016 are:

  1. Goldwater from Scottsdale to Indian School with a rate of 8.29;
  2. Perimeter from Bell to Princess with a rate of 7.78;
  3. Camelback from Scottsdale to Miller with a rate of 7.46;
  4. Scottsdale from Osborn to Indian School with a rate of 7.11;
  5. 92nd from Thunderbird to Raintree with a rate of 6.85;
  6. Oak from 68th to Scottsdale with a rate of 6.58;
  7. Shea from 70th to Scottsdale with a rate of 6.19;
  8. Scottsdale from Indian School to Camelback with a rate of 6.17;
  9. Indian School from Scottsdale to Drinkwater with a rate of 5.69; and
  10. Camelback from Goldwater to Scottsdale with a rate of 5.69.

The number of collisions in these areas range from 5-61.

When a collision does occur within Scottsdale, the TMC is notified about the event or roadway restriction, and communicates with the Scottsdale Police Department to verify the incident and determine the extent of the impact.

“If a closure is significant, the TMC monitors traffic conditions through cameras, manages traffic signals, and if necessary, implements special signal timing plans in affected areas and detoured routes,” Mr. Corsette says.

“Information about significant incidents is also disseminated to the public and news media via email and social medial. If the collision or restriction occurs on the 101 Freeway in Scottsdale, the city’s TMC coordinates with the ADOT Traffic Operations Center and implements preferred local diversion routes and emergency timing plans.”

While the city has not studied the effects of new traffic signal technology used in Scottsdale, Mr. Corsette says, it has been applying new technology and traffic engineering approaches over the past few years in an ongoing attempt to improve safety on streets for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Efforts include adding leading pedestrian intervals at signalized intersections where there are vehicle and pedestrian conflicts, allowing the pedestrian to start crossing before the vehicles get a green light; Video detection for vehicles at some signalized intersections to improve the signal operation and reduce delay; and signal retiming efforts for major street corridors in Scottsdale to improve progression and reduce vehicle delay.

Ultimately, city officials don’t believe increased vehicles on Scottsdale roads has impacted the number of collisions experienced.

“We have graphed the number of collisions over the years versus miles traveled and there is not a proportional relationship — in other words, data does not show that increasing volumes directly lead to increasing number of collisions,” Mr. Corsette said.

A 2018 single-vehicle collision occurred along Scottsdale Road in the middle of the night. City officials claim there were 22 fatal collisions that year. (file photo)

In search of a hometown solution

Scottsdale City Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp in January requested City Manager Jim Thompson to agendize a presentation, discussion and possible action on an ordinance to regulate the use of hand-held communication devices by all drivers in the city of Scottsdale.

The request came shortly after Salt River Police Department Officer Clayton Townsend was killed in the line of duty after being struck by a distracted driver during a traffic stop on the Loop 101 near Scottsdale. The driver told Arizona DPS officials that he was texting and driving at the time of the crash, a news release said at the time.

Scottsdale Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“The rapid increase in usage of handheld devices has led to distracted driving and short attention spans to become one of the greatest challenges engineers and enforcement officials need to address in the future,” Ms. Klapp said.
“We can work toward building safer roads, but drivers must keep their eyes on those roads.”

Ms. Klapp says she is not only concerned for drivers in vehicles, but also vulnerable pedestrians who have no armor around them to be shielded from a direct hit by an automobile.

“I also cringe at how close bicycle riders are to automobiles and how just a slight weave in traffic can seriously injure or kill a bicyclist,” she said. “Our police and other law enforcement people must have tools to help detect and prove distracted driving. We need laws on the books that address this problem and give our public safety officials more resources to keep all of us safe.”

As far as the amount of vehicle collisions in the Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Hayden Road areas, she says she would expect a higher number of accidents in the area because of heavy usage.

“National, state and regional trends all show increases in the total number of yearly collisions that is elated to an increase in vehicle miles traveled after the 2008 recession and an increase in distracted driving behavior,” she said, pointing out the city added a roundabout at Hayden Road and Northsight Boulevard in 2014.

She says the roundabout was to relieve traffic going through the busy intersection at Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Hayden Road.

“ASU published a study in 2017 that found not only were collisions reduced at the roundabout intersection, but more importantly, the severity of injuries from accidents were reduced,” she said.

“The annual injury rate from the time the intersection was signal controlled was reduced. The annual injury rate from the time the intersection was signal controlled was reduced by 90 percent. The city is taking measures to reduce accidents and the severity of accidents wherever is feasible.”

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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