Preventing Florida’s Fatal Miami intersection car accidents

I was saddened to learn of the tragic car accident that killed a University of Miami student yesterday. Dino Ghilotti was a passenger in a car just a few blocks from campus. The fatal accident happened at 4:37 in the morning at the intersection of Bird Road and San Amaro Drive, just a block from the Coral Gables campus.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation, intersection accidents account for nearly 40% of traffic crashes every day. It would seem that those accidents are random and unpredictable. While the facts are unknown as to how Mr. Ghilotti was killed, intersection accidents are far more predictable than one might imagine.

The University of Central Florida’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering performed an analysis of Florida’s intersections to see if there are patterns or similarities that make certain intersections more dangerous than others. To perform this analysis, the department examined nearly 30,000 accidents at over 1500 intersections, in six Florida counties, over three years.

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They then divided the different intersections into three separate categories:

1. Types of intersections classified by the number of lanes, the angles, traffic signals, and speed limits.

2. Volume of traffic passing through the intersections, calibrated to the Miami Dade and Orange County Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) figure.

3. Kinds of crashes that occur at each intersection, and how the time of the accident, crash angles, and points of impact, correlate with fatality.

The study found that there are 45 distinct common types of intersections in Florida and that a mathematical formula that can predict with statistical reliability which specific Florida intersections are more likely to be the sites of fatalities.

One would hope that such information was easy to obtain, but the researchers found that the Cities, Counties, and the State of Florida do not share a common data bank of important accident information, such as road speed, lanes, and angles of impact, making the research far more complicated than necessary.

Ultimately by studying the data from 413 intersections in Miami-Dade County, the UCF engineers found that rear-end collisions at intersections are the most common with head-on being the least common. Most accidents at intersections happen in broad daylight on dry streets as opposed to at night or when streets are slick. January has the most intersection accidents in Miami Dade, and December the least. Fridays are the most dangerous days of the week, and Mondays are least dangerous.

The good news is that the FDOT has implemented several initiatives that have lowered the number of Miami intersection car accidents resulting in serious injuries and deaths by the following measures:

• improving traffic signal visibility

• verifying that the sequential timing of traffic lights is correct

• installing additional pedestrian countdown signals

• initiating additional road safety audits

• and providing more driver pedestrian education

I have investigated traffic accidents involving pedestrians, cars, motorcycles, trucks, bicycles across the State of Florida for over twenty years. I suggest that the FDOT share the data about which intersections across Florida are the most dangerous with the drivers who are on the road by identifying those intersections with warning signs. A standard warning sign should be placed at the approach to each intersection, simply advising drivers to pay extra attention. In addition if particular intersections experience more accidents than others, they should be immediately redesigned. Let the FDOT identify, for example, the 10 most dangerous intersections in Florida, install warnings, and then show us how they are making our roads safer.

I am extremely disappointed by how the FDOT is neglecting to protect us as I expressed my in the Huffington Post in “FDOT Must Take a Hands-on Approach to Safety.” For example, the FDOT’s website depicts a Dashboard proclaiming their success in minimizing fatalities in car, bicycle, and motorcycle accidents by comparing their goals to the actual data. The goal for reducing bicycle accidents, for example, was to decrease them by 5%. In reality they are up .7%. But what is worse is the FDOT’s Performance Data itself is obsolete and has not been updated in three years. It is no wonder that Florida’s roads are as dangerous as they are when our FDOT cannot maintain and update its own website, much less regulate our fatal intersections.

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