Wednesday, June 30, 1999

Honolulu intersection
on crash course list

The Kapiolani intersection
with Atkinson Drive rings
State Farm's alarm bells

By Pete Pichaske
Phillips News Service


WASHINGTON -- The intersection of Kapiolani Boulevard and Atkinson Drive was named the most dangerous in Hawaii today by State Farm Insurance.

The Honolulu crossing is the only Hawaii intersection on the company's list of the 172 most hazardous in the nation.

It was the site of an estimated 49 crashes last year, the highest in the state.

The 49 crashes, however, were not nearly enough to earn it a spot on the nation's top 10 list, where the number of accidents ranged from 263 (at the intersection of Belt Line and Midway roads in Addison, Texas, a suburb of Dallas) to 204 (at a crossing in Chesterfield, Mich.).

The estimates were based not on police data but on claims filed with State Farm, the largest automobile insurer in the nation and in Hawaii.

The number of claims was multiplied by a factor based on the percentage of cars in the area insured by State Farm.

Company officials say their data is the best available for determining how dangerous an intersection is, because of the extensiveness of their coverage and because so many accidents are not reported to the police.

"This is the best snapshot of what is happening," said senior vice president Barbara Cowden.

Maj. Henry Lau, commander of the central Honolulu police patrol district, said a combination of design and heavy traffic flow probably accounts for the high number of accidents at the Kapiolani intersection.


"It's one of those difficult intersections that's not a T but a fork in the road," Lau said.

"Any turns there can be difficult. There are lots of intersections along the Kapiolani corridor that are problems because of the heavy traffic flow."

The city will be eligible for a $20,000 grant for an engineering study to determine how the Kapiolani-Atkinson intersection could be made safer.

Cheryl Soon, transportation services director, said local State Farm officials informed her of the listing last week.

The intersection is high on the city's priority list already, and the department has been looking at improvements for the area.

But the city will now "take a whole new look at it" using the data collected by State Farm, Soon said. "We want to see the exact geometrics of the accidents," she said.

The nation's 10 worst intersections will be eligible for an additional $100,000 each for actual road improvements.

Sany Zein, a Canadian traffic safety engineer who worked on the State Farm study, said a similar program to improve dangerous intersections in British Columbia slashed accident rates there 10-40 percent.

He said minor adjustments, such as better traffic signal patterns, often can help.

"We need to design our roads to accommodate driver imperfections," he said. "It's a lot easier to make perfect intersections than perfect drivers."

The study was of crossings where two roads intersect, which excludes, for example, highway overpasses.

Such intersections are the site for one-third of all crashes, according to State Farm data.

Three of the 10 worst intersections were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and three were in California.

Star-Bulletin reporters Rod Ohira and
Gordon Pang contributed to this report.

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