The most dangerous intersection in Oklahoma City last year was at Pennsylvania Avenue and Memorial Road. Police worked 94 wrecks at that location, including noninjury, injury, hit-and-run and alcohol- or drug-related traffic incidents within two blocks of the busy intersection, according to the Oklahoma City Police Department. At a distant second was Northwest Expressway and NW 63, where officers worked 63 accidents. The third most dangerous area was around Interstate 240 and Pennsylvania, police Geographic Information System data show. The top 10 most dangerous intersections accounted for 564 collisions last year. All 10 of the most dangerous intersections were on the west side of the city, where traffic patterns are heaviest. Eight of the intersections were on the northwest side and two on the southwest side.
What’s the solution?Oklahoma City police Capt. Patrick Stewart said police are aware of where the most dangerous intersections are because they work all the accidents at those intersections. In an effort to reduce the accidents at those locations, Stewart said, police began a currently stalled initiative to try to place red-light cameras at those intersections. Images from the cameras would result in fines being sent to the owners of vehicles photographed running red lights. But current Oklahoma law does not specifically authorize the use of such devices, Stewart said. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws permitting such automated enforcement. Nine states have laws prohibiting the cameras, and 26 states, including Oklahoma, neither permit nor prohibit the practice. Police lobbied for an Oklahoma law to allow the cameras. Senate Bill 838 by state Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, which would have given cities with more than 300,000 people the means to operate red-light cameras, never made it out of committee, Stewart said. "We recognize there are high accident locations, and many are always in the same areas,” Stewart said. "Red-light cameras were one strategy we wanted to use to fix that, but first we needed to initiate a law change.” Leftwich said the opposition to the bill was that even though it would have only allowed such devices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, that it would perpetuate the "threat of Big Brother.” "It seemed like a no brainer to me,” Leftwich said. "It would be using the same technology that’s already on the turnpikes, it would save money and prevent accidents.” Because the bill failed, Stewart said, it cannot be introduced again until next year. So in the meantime, Stewart said, motorists at busy intersections should pay attention to their surroundings and which lane they are in, and make sure to keep a safe distance between vehicles. And sometimes, when an intersection is backed up, some motorists waiting to turn left may find it is safer and faster to turn right, clearing the intersection congestion and then finding a way to turn around later, Stewart said.