Flagstaff Collisions

A group of cars sit piled up at the bottom of Forest Avenue after a winter snowstorm led to snow-covered roads in this December 2015 file photo. According to Flagstaff Police Department, there were 2,860 collisions inside city limits in 2015.

North Country Club Drive at North Highway 89 was the most dangerous intersection in Flagstaff in 2015.

According to Flagstaff Police Department’s year-end CompStat report, there were 33 collisions at the intersection, which is located just west of the Flagstaff Mall. It was the fourth-most-dangerous intersection in 2014 with 22 crashes.

“The speeds are higher (at North Country Club Drive and North Highway 89) than pretty much anywhere in the city,” said FPD spokesperson Sgt. Margaret Bentzen. “The heavy traffic flow and the speeds contribute to the accidents.”

She said FPD’s traffic squad plans to increase the visibility of patrol officers in that area this year in an effort to encourage safer driving and, as a result, prevent crashes.

 South Milton Road at West Route 66 was the most dangerous intersection in 2014 with 39 collisions. Although Milton Road was not at the top of the list this year, it remains a crash-prone street. Of the top ten most dangerous intersections on FPD’s list this past year, seven were along Milton Road.

Bentzen said an agreement approved by the City Council in 2014 that would realign University Avenue may help prevent collisions around both sides of University Avenue at Milton Road.

Another frequent flier on the list, East Ponderosa Parkway at East Route 66, was the second-most-dangerous intersection in 2015. Bentzen said the large amount of traffic that filters through that intersection to get from Butler Avenue to East Route 66 contributes to the problem.

DUI arrests fell slightly in 2015, while DUI-related collisions increased from 87 to 102. Bentzen said detecting drunken drivers and arresting them before they get into an accident will be one priority for the police force in 2016.

“There really is a huge correlation (between) citations and accidents,” she said. “We find that the more enforcement with citations that occur, the more our accidents go down.”

Overall, Flagstaff had about 300 more collisions in 2015 than in either 2014 or 2013. Non-injury collisions accounted for most of the increase, although there were slightly more injury collisions and the number of fatal collisions inched up from three to seven. Police also made more traffic stops and handed out more traffic citations.

More than 35 percent of all Flagstaff traffic collisions in 2015 occurred between 2 and 6 p.m. Bentzen said rush-hour traffic congestion was a big factor, but the angle of the sun on the city’s east-west roadways also contributed. In the late afternoon and early evening, she said, the sun can have a blinding effect on westbound drivers.

“That’s when you should be putting your headlights on because even if somebody is looking into the (sun)light, they are still going to see your headlights,” she said.

Bentzen also urged drivers who have to travel westbound at sunset to keep their windshields clean and wear sunglasses.

Bentzen said higher numbers of traffic citations usually equal fewer crashes because they encourage drivers to use caution. However, she noted that several years of explosive enrollment growth at Northern Arizona University have brought an annual influx of drivers into the city, which can throw off the tickets-to-collisions correlation because there are fewer officers on the road per capita. FPD’s data has shown a spike in motor vehicle collisions in the fall months – the beginning of NAU’s academic year – for many years.

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The reporter can be reached at mmcmanimon@azdailysun.com or 556-2261.

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