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Mountain View PD's latest collision report reveals most dangerous intersections in city


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The El Camino Real-Grant Road intersection is among the most dangerous in Mountain View.

At least 169 traffic collisions took place in Mountain View during the first quarter of the year, a drop from the 187 tallied during the last quarter of 2018, according to the latest quarterly collision reports published on the police department’s website as part of a traffic safety awareness initiative that commenced in June 2018.

“We’re doubling the effort, for those who are interested in traffic data, to be able to access the information easily,” said Frank St. Clair, traffic lieutenant. “It is good public information to share, and as such, we wanted to make sure that our community (is) as informed as possible when they head out on the road.”

A comparison of city intersections reveals that El Camino Real-Grant Road saw the most action (seven collisions) between Jan. 1 and March 31, followed by Castro Street-Central Expressway (five collisions) and Central Expressway-San Antonio Road (four collisions), according to the 2019 Q1 report. By comparison, only Highway 237-Middlefield Road (eight collisions) ranked above El Camino Real-Grant Road (five collisions) during the last quarter of 2018.

That El Camino Real-Grant Road, where Highway 237 culminates less than a quarter-mile from a Highway 85 exit ramp, continues to rank among the most dangerous intersections in the city comes as no surprise to officials.

“That intersection remains busy, and it has been that way for some time, as it is a major thoroughfare in and out of our area and into Milpitas and the East Bay,” St. Clair said.

The 2019 Q1 report recorded 65 injuries, including three that occurred at the intersection. Among 13 collisions involving bicycles, 12 resulted in an injury. The report classifies 12 collisions as DUIs and 16 as hit and runs. On 91 occasions, the cause of the crash was unknown, but speeding, failure to drive on the righthand side of the road and misdemeanor DUI are otherwise listed as the most common primary collision factors, with 18, 14 and 13 incidents, respectively.

Although the report did not list any traffic fatalities as of last week, that does not mean none occurred during the quarter, warned Katie Nelson, police spokeswoman. Department reports do not include information about collisions until the related investigations are complete. Investigations for collisions involving fatalities, for example, typically take weeks or months to wrap up.

Among the data missing from the 2019 Q1 report is the Jan. 28 accident that killed pedestrian Joseph Polston, 61. A car struck Polston after he allegedly stepped off the sidewalk and onto El Camino Real near Yuba Drive.

Influencing improvements

While the police department uses traffic collision data to focus enforcement and outreach efforts, the city’s public works department consults it for direction regarding potential engineering and safety improvements.

Prioritizing intersections for enhancements or reconfigurations is often determined by comparing the ratio of accidents to traffic volume, said Sayed Fakhry, city traffic engineer.

That’s why alterations at relatively low-volume intersections may take precedent over ones at intersections like El Camino Real-Grant Road.

“If you look at the number of cars at that intersection and the number of cars on Escuela and California, the ratio was way higher on Escuela and California,” he said. “So we knew that, actually, that intersection requires more attention.”

Indeed, a series of pedestrian-involved traffic accidents at the Escuela Avenue-California Street intersection approximately four years ago prompted city officials to investigate. They determined a left-turn phase was coinciding with a pedestrian crossing phase – a common feature of traffic signals installed decades ago, as many of Mountain View’s were. A new signal has since reduced the number of collisions there, and others are slated for installation at Shoreline Boulevard-Villa Street and Shoreline Boulevard-Latham Street, where similar conflicts still exist.

The October 2015 death of pedestrian Michelle Montalvo, 54, ultimately led to changes at the El Monte Avenue-Marich Way intersection last year. The driver of the SUV that struck the Los Altos resident said he couldn’t see her in the El Monte Avenue crosswalk because it was obscured by darkness when the accident occurred, at 6:35 a.m. Now the intersection features a raised crosswalk, electronic radar speed signs and pedestrian-activated, flashing LED lights.

Engineering can’t prevent every accident, however, Fakhry said. Those caused by driving under the influence or red-light running, for example, are the result of human error.

St. Clair expressed a similar opinion.

“Human behavior is always a factor – and ensuring that drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians know how to safely utilize the road and to remain focused when they are operating either a vehicle or bicycle or that they are vigilant as they cross the street are important to us,” he said.

To view past MVPD traffic collision reports, visit mountainview.gov/police and click “MVPD News.”

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