Slate Quarry Road, Clinton, New York
Vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death across the world, in our country, state, and here in Dutchess County. We hear about crashes so often that they seem inevitable. But crashes are not inevitable—they are often predictable and almost always preventable. And behind every crash is a mother or father, sister or brother, daughter or son; a friend; a neighbor; a classmate or colleague. Understanding the patterns behind where crashes happen and why they happen can help us prevent them.
In order to provide safe access on our roads, we need to understand 1) Where are our high-crash locations? and 2) What conditions contribute to these high-crash locations?
To do this, we used the most recent five years of crash data from NYSDOT and analyzed this data for three types of crashes: vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle; and at three scales: corridors, segments, and intersections. For each analysis, we considered State, County, and local roads separately. Our methodology document describes the details of the analysis, and our Barriers to Safe Access map shows the results.
Where are vehicle crashes concentrated?
Based on our analysis of crash rates, high-crash corridors include Routes 44/55 (the arterials) in Poughkeepsie, Main Street (CR 114) and Taft Avenue/Van Wagner Road (CR 38) in the Town of Poughkeepsie, and Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie. These corridors are in dense areas with many intersections/driveways, which create numerous conflict points. The arterials, as three-lane one-way streets that prioritize through traffic over cross traffic, also encourage high speeds. In the Town of Poughkeepsie, almost half of Main Street’s (CR 114) crashes and more than half of Taft Avenue/Van Wagner Road’s (CR 38) crashes occur at the Main Street/Taft Avenue intersection. Other high-crash corridors have sections with curves; corridors in more rural areas often have a high number of deer crashes. Lower-crash rate corridors (such as I-84 and the Taconic State Parkway) have few intersections and medians separating opposing directions of traffic, which reduce vehicle conflicts.
High-crash segments include portions of Route 9 in Wappinger, Hollow Road (CR 14) in Clinton, and Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie. Many of the segments are on high-crash corridors and have high volumes and numerous intersections/driveways. In the case of Hollow Road, a sharp curve near Route 9G contributes to crashes.
High-crash intersections include locations on Route 9 in Fishkill, Routes 44/55 (the arterials) in Poughkeepsie, the Main Streets in the cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon, as well as intersections on Old Hopewell Road (CR 28), Creek Road (CR 100), Noxon Road (CR 21), and Titusville Road (CR 49). Many of the intersections are wide and/or complex with weaving and turning movements. Several have higher-speed traffic, and some have limited visibility. Many are part of high-crash corridors or segments. (We did not analyze intersections at the Route 9/44/55 interchange in the City of Poughkeepsie due to its complexity and because we are evaluating redesign options for the interchange as part of the Poughkeepsie 9.44.55 study.)
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We perform safety assessments to take a detailed look at a high-crash corridor, segment, or intersection. We start by assembling a multi-disciplinary team, typically including County Public Works’ engineering and maintenance staff; State, County or local law enforcement; local highway staff; and a local elected official, in addition to our own staff.
The team holds a pre-assessment meeting to review crash data, traffic volume and speed data, maintenance records, and plans, conducts a site visit to observe and document issues and discuss possible solutions, and then holds a post-assessment meeting to review the observations and possible solutions and agree on recommendations.
We then produce a formal report and the road owner provides a written response outlining the recommendations they intend to pursue and a general timeframe for implementing them. See our publications page for Safety Assessment reports.
What are the predominant crash types?
We evaluated crash patterns across the county in terms of top crash types and contributing factors. The adjacent charts show any crash type that represents at least ten percent of the crashes on any given road type (all, State, County, or local).
For all crashes (including those on segments and at intersections), rear end (25 percent), deer (11 percent), and overtaking (10 percent) crashes are the most common types. Right-angle crashes represent nine percent of total crashes.
For segments, the most common crash types also include rear end, deer, and overtaking. Rear ends are most common on State roads, deer crashes are most common on County roads, and overtaking crashes are most common on local roads.
For intersections, the most common crash types include rear end, right-angle, and overtaking. Rear ends are most common at State and County intersections and right-angle crashes are most common at local intersections.
What are the predominant crash factors?
We also evaluated crash patterns across the county in terms of the top contributing factors. The adjacent charts show any factor that represents at least ten percent of the crashes on any given road type (all, State, County, or local).
A contributing factor reflects what the responding police officer reports as the primary cause of the crash for each vehicle involved. We reviewed the factors for all involved vehicles and calculated each factor’s percentage of the total.
For all crashes (including those on segments and at intersections), the most common crash factors include following too closely (15 percent), animal’s action (13 percent), driver inattention (13 percent), and failure to yield right of way (10 percent). Unsafe speed represents eight percent of crashes.
For segment crashes, animal’s action, following too closely, unsafe speed, and driver inattention are the most common factors. Animal’s action is most common on State and County roads, while driver inattention is most common on local roads.
For intersection crashes, following too closely, failure to yield right of way, and driver inattention are the most common factors. Following too closely is most common at State intersections, while failure to yield is most common at County and local intersections.
Where are pedestrian and bicycle crashes concentrated?
Many of the same locations show up in our analysis of pedestrian crashes as for vehicle crashes: Route 44/55 (the east and westbound arterials) in Poughkeepsie, portions of Route 9 in Wappinger, Main Street (CR 114) in the Town of Poughkeepsie, and the Main Streets in the cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon.
High-crash locations for bicycles include Route 44/55 (the east and westbound arterials) in Poughkeepsie, a portion of Route 9 near Spackenkill Rd (Route 113), Main Street (CR 114) and West Cedar Street in the Town of Poughkeepsie, and Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie.
These locations have more crashes (and higher crashes per mile) than others in part because more people are walking and bicycling on them. If we had more complete pedestrian and bicycle count data, we could normalize the rates based on volume and better compare these streets to others.
But levels of activity alone don’t tell the whole story. These streets also are designed in ways that make it difficult to walk or bicycle safely. The arterials are high-speed, three-lane streets with some long sections between crossings and intersections with many turning conflicts. Main Street in the Town of Poughkeepsie has dozens of driveways into drive-through restaurants, gas stations and other businesses, creating what can feel like an endless series of conflicts with vehicles entering and exiting. It also has some complex intersections, including at Grand Avenue, which has no pedestrian signals. Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie has many driveways and parking movements, as well as intersections without modern pedestrian signals. Beacon’s Main Street has similar issues. In addition, all these streets lack bicycle infrastructure, leaving people on bicycles to share lanes with vehicles while navigating conflicts at driveways, along parking lanes, and at complex intersections.
What is being done?
Many of the high-crash locations have been evaluated through planning studies and in some cases, improvements have been implemented or are planned. Our Arlington Main Street Redesign Initiative aims to calm traffic, improve safety, and make Main Street (CR 114) from Grand Avenue to Taft Avenue a more complete street. A redesign of Routes 44/55 is part of our Poughkeepsie 9.44.55 study.
Several County road segments have been evaluated as part of our safety assessments. The high-ranking segment of Slate Quarry Road (CR 19) was part of a Safety Assessment that identified a series of low-cost improvements; some of these have been implemented, including high-friction pavement. County Public Works redesigned the Noxon Road (CR 21)/Titusville Road (CR 49) intersection in 2016, although crash data from 2015-2019 shows that the average number of crashes per year has not changed significantly. The Old Hopewell Road (CR 28)/All Angels Hill Road (CR 94) intersection is being redesigned in 2021, and the County also plans to improve visibility at the Noxon Road (CR 21)/Maloney Road/Smith Road intersection.
The City of Poughkeepsie plans to upgrade many intersections along Main Street in 2021 with funding from the State’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP) program, and the City of Beacon plans to make crossings more visible and add curb extensions and countdown timers along its Main Street in 2021.
Source: NYSDOT ALIS data (2015-2019)
Source: NYSDOT ALIS data (2015-2019)
ROADWAY DEPARTURE CRASHES
Preventing roadway departure crashes has become a high priority across the country, including in New York State, since they tend to represent a large portion of fatalities. FHWA estimates that one-third of all crash fatalities in the country are from roadway or lane departures on rural roads. NYSDOT is working on a Roadway Departure Action Plan, and some MPOs in New York are also focusing on roadway departures.
According to NYSDOT’s methodology, roadway departure crashes include head-on and sideswipe crashes as well as various crashes with roadside elements (e.g., ditches, light/utility poles, guiderail, signposts, trees and other fixed objects). In Dutchess County, roadway departures represent 45% of County segment crashes, almost 35% of local segment crashes, and about 25% of State segment crashes. These rates suggest that this crash type will be a key emphasis area for future safety analyses, particularly on County roads.
Source: NYSDOT ALIS data (2015-2019)
Source: NYSDOT ALIS data (2015-2019)
Source: NYSDOT ALIS data (2015-2019)
After ‘animal’s action,’ unsafe speed is the most common factor for crashes on our County roads, representing 17% of the factors cited (this compares to 8% for crashes on all roads). Speed is likely a factor in many more crashes, but our data only includes what the responding officer cites as the primary factor.
We know that drivers tend to drive the speed that feels comfortable given the design of a road. However, road elevations and curves, weather and pavement conditions, and surrounding land uses can change along a roadway, and drivers don’t always respond appropriately. For example, many County roads have sections with curves, narrow shoulders, and adjacent trees, culverts, or other objects. Rain or snow can make roads slippery. And County roads often travel through hamlets in between stretches of less-developed land. All these factors should cause drivers to reduce their speed, but some unfortunately don’t.
Since 2016, we have analyzed speed patterns on County and local roads based on data from our traffic count program (see our annual high-end speeding reports). These analyses highlight road segments where at least 15% of drivers exceed the posted speed limit by more than ten miles per hour. However, our analyses assume that the posted speed limit is appropriate given the road geometry and surrounding context – which suggests that we should evaluate speed limits considering these factors and identify corridors or segments where lower speed limits should be explored.
"I wish it was easier for my kids to bike around the neighborhood and visit friends, but I don't feel like some of the roads around us are safe."
- Moving Dutchess Forward survey
Based on this crash analysis, our role could include the following:
- Work with State, County, and local road owners to plan and implement projects that improve safety at high-crash locations.
- Develop a local road safety action plan to build on our crash analysis. This could focus on the highest-crash corridors and intersections, identify specific emphasis areas for improvements, and recommend specific countermeasures for various crash types. It could also specifically focus on roadway departure crashes on County roads. We could model such a plan after the NYSDOT Strategic Highway Safety Plan.
- Continue our safety assessments in partnership with road owners. Focus these assessments on the highest-crash corridors, segments, and intersections. Continue to incorporate walking and bicycling safety issues and improvements.
- Continue our high-end speeding evaluations and work with County Public Works to evaluate speed limits and identify locations where lower speed limits should be considered.
- Continue to collect count data for people walking and bicycling and pursue methods to estimate their crash exposure so that better comparisons can be made across locations.
- Develop countywide average crash rates so we can compare crash rates to a countywide average. Different rates could be developed for local and County road segments and intersections, various types of roads, intersections, and crash types, similar to NYSDOT’s average crash rates for State roads.
- Work with County GIS staff and other MPOs to develop an automated method to calculate intersection crash rates. This would allow us to screen all intersections to determine those with the highest crash rates.
- Improve our GIS data: pursue a way to incorporate elevation data into our GIS analysis and consider creating our own intersection layer for future analyses.