Dangerous Intersection Causes Multiple Vehicular Fatalities

    Traffic Engineering ExpertThis case involves several deaths that occurred at the intersection of two poorly-lit county roads in Utah over the course of three years. Both roads had speed limits of 60 mph but the intersection was only a 2-way stop. The most recent accident was a side-impact collision that killed two small children. It was suspected that motorists tended to approach the intersection too fast to make note of the stop signs. County residents had suggested implementing a 4-way stop or introducing rumble strips. These suggestions were brought up by numerous residents on various occasions and in public forums, such as town hall meetings and social media pages. An expert in roadway design was sought to address the hazards of the intersection and opine on possible changes to make the area safer.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. For an intersection such as this, what additional safety features would you typically recommend?

    Expert Witness Response E-133297

    The manual on uniform traffic control devices includes warrants that must be met prior to the installation of 4-way stop signs based on accident data, speeds, and vehicle volumes. I would check the stopping sight distance to the intersection to review the visibility of the existing stop signs. I would check the corner sight distance to confirm vehicles stopped at the signs can see the approach of vehicles not required to stop. Possible changes might include an upgraded sign package including larger signs, advance warning signs, and/or a flashing yellow beacon. In my experience, the motorcycle community has serious concerns with the installation of rumble strips. Roundabouts are a solution that the state department of transportation considers to eliminate broadside accidents. I have worked on several plaintiff cases for which design immunity was a factor. Design immunity depends on how the local public entities actually followed their policies and procedures. The roadway itself may meet standards yet still need improvements to meet safety criteria. While working with the state department of transportation, my job included establishing design immunity for projects in design prior to construction.

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