Monday, December 01, 2014

Safety and the Ponce and Scott Intersection

This was originally posted on a blog for issues local to the City of Decatur, GA. Since then, that blog has been deleted so I am re-posting this post here since, as far as I know, no changes have been made to address these problems:

Background

On Monday, January 20, 2014 my wife and are were in a serious car accident near the intersection of Ponce and Scott, in Decatur. This area is DeKalb County, but not the City of Decatur. I have learned that at least one other person had the same accident there and others in my Lenox Place neighborhood report many near-misses. Since the foot traffic at that intersection is expected to increase due to the school rezoning and the re-opening of Westchester Elementary, it is especially important that this intersection be made safer. This page describes some of the problems and offers some suggestions to make the intersection safer. 

This page was created to readily present this information to those who can directly make changes.

Accident

On Monday, January 20, 2014, we were driving north on East Parkwood, crossing Ponce. We had a green light. A driver coming down Ponce, heading west, ran the red light and smashed into our car, and then hit another car going south on East Parkwood that was, presumably, turning left on Ponce to head up the hill. 


Since this accident, a friend told me that the exact same accident happened to her, and many friends and neighbors have reported near-misses at that intersection.

Observations

Some factors that contribute to the unsafe conditions at this intersection include:
  1. Too many people run the red light at Ponce and East Parkwood, either intentionally or accidentally. Many neighbors report seeing this.
  2. The view of Ponce when heading north on East Parkwood is obstructed: there is a hill on the southeast corner there and many plants in the way. So, drivers on East Parkwood cannot really see who is coming down Ponce and react accordingly. In my accident, I assumed that "green means go" and that it was safe for us to continue driving through the intersection, and did not see the car speeding down Ponce that hit us. This video helps show this:
  3. Presumably, too many people speed down Ponce. City of Decatur police often sit and catch people speeding up the hill, so there surely must be people speeding down the hill. 
  4. Coming from the other direction on Ponce, heading east, the view of the light at Ponce and East Parkwood is obstructed by this magnolia tree:




Recommendations

Here are a few recommendations for how to make this intersection safer:
  1. The lights at East Parkwood should display red and flashing yellow, not green, so that drivers enter the intersection with caution and do not assume that drivers on Ponce will stop for them.
  2. If anything obstructing the view coming north on East Parkwood to Ponce can be removed, that would help.
  3. The speed limit down Ponce should be reduced. Perhaps a flashing red or yellow light could be put in around half way down the hill, or at the bend near Upland, to deter speeding and to help drivers expect to perhaps be stopping at the stoplight. 
  4. Most importantly, something needs to be done to make drivers on Ponce more aware of the light at East Parkwood, so they do not run it and run over anyone in that intersection, pedestrian or other drivers. Perhaps small speed bumps, or texture in the road would help, or something else. 
  5. The driver who hit us reported seeing a green light at Ponce and Scott and that this contributed to her ignoring the red light at Ponce and East Parkwood. I have investigated this (see the video below), however, and have found that - at least when I observed these lights - they are never in this combination. So, a driver would not look farther down the road, see a green, and ignore the red, since that doesn't happen. If it does, however, the light timing should be changed so that the lights never display in this potentially confusing combination. 

These are a few recommendations for improving safety at this intersection. I am sure that experts on these issues would have more and better recommendations. If you have any recommendations, please add them as comments below or contact me, Nathan. 

Contact

Nathan Nobis
Decatur, GA 30030
404-825-1740

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