Collision Corners: Savannah's most dangerous intersections

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Every morning, Dawn Naper gets in her car and drives six miles from her Whitemarsh Island home to work by way of the most dangerous intersection in Savannah.

"I try to keep a lot of distance between me and the car in front of me so I don't have to slam on my breaks,'' said Naper. "Or if they hit me, I don't hit the car in front of me.''

Skidaway Road and Victory Drive is where much of Savannah comes together, from every corner of the city, and often in ways that are inconvenient, unfortunate or far worse.

More traffic accidents occurred at this corner than any other in town during the last quarter of 2011, the last period for which information is available to the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.

"Technically, it's a small intersection,'' said Lieutenant Gregory Mitchell of the SCMPD's Traffic Unit. "But it's got four-way turns in each direction. So, it's definitely a main thoroughfare of the city, it's heavily traveled.''

It was also the site of 20 accidents in the final three months of 2011, placing it atop the list of Savannah's collision corners, those intersections where wrecks are most likely to occur.

"Many of them are thoroughfares,'' said Lt. Mitchell. "They're places that run through the heart of the city, they transgress the business districts, people are traveling to and from their places of employment. I mean, they're the lifeblood of the city, the main arteries.''

And the connective tissue of Savannah, joining the Southside to the Westside, Wilmington Island to downtown.

Along with Skidaway and Victory in the top three for most accidents according to Police Department records is Abercorn Street and Montgomery Crossroad, where Department of Transportation data shows 217 collisions have occurred since 2008.

There's also Chatham Parkway at Ogeechee Road, where seven of the 20 accidents that occurred in the last quarter of last year resulted in citations for following too closely.

"It's also a major thoroughfare that leads to egress from in and out of town,'' said Lt. Mitchell. "And I think the lesson is clear: Give yourself plenty of space, don't follow too closely.''

The City of Savannah measures accident rates differently and has come up with different results. But Mike Weiner, head of the city's Department of Traffic Engineering, says there's usually a common cause.

"Either motorists do not pay attention to the indications or we need some enforcement or we need some traffic improvement be it signing or traffic markings,'' said Weiner. "Or the traffic control is not adequate at that location.''

But driver error, often in attention and patience, is also a factor.

"Well, it's technology - cell phones, text messaging,'' said Lt. Mitchell. "It's everywhere, computers in cars. We talk about that all the time, we try to say that's not a safe thing to do, because you take your eyes off the road, you're traveling 30, 40, 50 mph, you're going to travel a great distance in a short period of time.''

That danger multiplies with the 45,000 cars that cross Skidaway and Victory each day.

And when Naper does arrive at work, she has a front-row seat to the intersection as manager of the Meineke Mufflers on Victory.

"I'm here 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day,'' she said. "Usually when I'm coming in is when it starts getting busy. I see cars skidding to a stop, I see cars running red lights, and I see near accidents.

"I don't even go through the intersection. I actually turn at the traffic light and go beside the insurance agency, come back behind the bowling alley and back out.''

It's just not always as easy to avoid trouble at Savannah's collision corners.

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