Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 1, 2013

Study: Wrecks at intersection likely because of human error

By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BRUSHFORK — Though many have complained about the stoplights at the intersection of U.S. Route 52 and Route 123/Airport Road, officials said many past accidents have more to do with human error.

Several people have been hospitalized following major accidents at the intersection in recent months. On June 27, two people were transported to the hospital after their vehicles collided and on June 17 five people were taken to the hospital following a two-vehicle collision at the intersection.

In light of complaints alleging the light at the intersection did not allow enough time for vehicles to cross, the Division of Highways conducted a traffic study on the intersection in the spring of 2012.

However, West Virginia Division of Highways District 10 Manager Tom Camden said the study yielded no proof the light runs any differently than required.

“We did a study in response to an inquiry last year,” Camden said. “Based on that study we found the lights take an appropriate length of time to change as recommended by traffic engineers. We didn’t find anything wrong with the turning or configuration of the lights. Typically, we get most of our complaints about this intersection from people involved in accidents there.”

Instead, Camden said the study suggested the issue at the intersection may be less mechanical and more human.

“Obviously, any time you have a busy intersection with lights you run a risk of people trying to beat the light or go fast through the light,” Camden said. “One thing that complicates that spot is the hill when you are traveling north on U.S. 52 from Bluefield. The speed limit in that area is 45 miles per hour, but even at that speed it can be difficult to stop. Unfortunately, people don’t always observe the speed limit on that road.”

Camden said there hasn’t been any discussion of lowering the speed limit on the stretch of U.S. Route 52 near the intersection.

Sgt. D.W. Miller, detachment commander of the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment, said he and other troopers are frequently called out to the intersection to handle collisions.

“It is one of the more troublesome intersections in the area,” Miller said. “We deal with everything from fender-benders to fatalities.”

Miller said human error, especially failing to stop for red lights, is one of the most common factors in the accidents troopers see at the intersection.

“Probably the main cause is people not paying attention to the red light or trying to beat the red light,” Miller said. “The hill doesn’t help people slow down there either. Especially in the rain and snow a lot of people don’t allow themselves the time they need to stop and end up sliding into the intersection.”

Miller said paying more attention to the road is what would prevent many accidents at the intersection and elsewhere.

“A good rule of thumb is to allow yourself enough time to stop,” he said. “You have to give yourself more room to stop in inclement weather as well.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com