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Charlotte's Crash Central

Where cars collide

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Every day, hundreds of thousands of people drive through Charlotte's 13 most crash-prone intersections. These spots are probably well known to the insurance adjusters who read about them on accident reports and the traffic cops who write those reports, but the average driver sipping her coffee and talking on a cell phone on the way to work is usually none the wiser.

Creative Loafing used 2002 crash data to rank the area's intersections according to the number of auto accidents that occur there. Independence Boulevard and Idlewild Road, the scene of 103 accidents in 2002, ranked number one on CL's list of accident-prone intersections, followed by the intersection of Albemarle Road and W.T. Harris, with 102 accidents. W.T. Harris and North Tryon, the scene of 90 accidents, ranked third.

Like many things in life, who ends up in one of these crashes is a numbers game in which a driver's stakes improve by slowing down and paying attention. A quarter of the 26,044 accidents the Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT) tracked in 2002 were caused by inattentive driving, another 16 percent by speeding.

"Typically it's speeding and inattention combined that leads to accidents," said CDOT Accident Section Manager Charlie Jones.

There's both good and bad news about many of the city's high-crash intersections. Even though it ranked number one on CL's list with 103 accidents, collisions at the intersection of Independence and Idlewild are down from a high of 136 in 2001. The bad news is that roadwork that will radically alter that intersection isn't scheduled to begin until 2009 -- or later. Scheduled construction at the fifth-ranking Independence and Sharon Amity intersection, the scene of 74 accidents last year, isn't scheduled to begin until at least 2008.

Four of the intersections -- Sugar Creek Rd and Tryon St., Central Ave. and Eastway, Central Ave. and Sharon Amity, and Albemarle Rd. and Independence Boulevard -- are currently under construction that should make them safer. No date has been set for planned improvements at five others. No improvement projects are currently planned at the intersection of Eastway Drive and Tryon Street, which ranked 10th on the list with 51 accidents.

Surprisingly, more than 60 percent of the collisions at the most crash-prone intersections resulted in no injuries to the drivers involved. Jones, who spends his days studying where Charlotte drivers have accidents and what causes them, has come up with an odds-based way for drivers to look at these intersections. Because 28.2 million drivers cross the intersection of Idlewild and Independence each year, he says, a driver's odds of winding up in an accident as they pass through the intersection are about one in 273,927. And if they do wind up in an accident at the intersection, he says, their odds of being injured are about 32 percent. See the chart below for your odds at certain intersections.

Charlotte's Most Crash-Prone Intersections
Ranking Intersection Number of 2002 collisions Odds of Crashing
1 Independence Blvd./Idlewild Rd. 103 1 in 273,927
2 Albemarle Rd/W.T. Harris Blvd. 102 1 in 307,029
3 W.T. Harris Blvd./N. Tryon St. 90 1 in 357,294
4 Albemarle Rd./E. Independence Blvd. 85 1 in 385,182
5 Independence Blvd./Sharon Amity Rd. 74 1 in 481,899
6 Central Ave./Eastway Dr. 63 1 in 371,925
7 South Blvd./Tyvola Rd. 63 1 in 388,175
8 J.W. Clay Blvd./W.T. Harris Blvd. 60 1 in 570,008
9 Albemarle Rd./N. Sharon Amity Rd. 58 1 in 481,899
10 Central Ave./N. Sharon Amity Rd. 55 1 in 371,952
11 E. Sugar Creek Rd./N. Tryon St. 55 1 in 373,627
12 Eastway Dr./N. Tryon St. 51 1 in 382,892
13 E. Independence Blvd./W.T. Harris Blvd. 51 1 in 576,127

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