Traffic is a fact of life in Houston, and so are traffic accidents, especially at intersections. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that Houston is particularly vulnerable to vehicle accidents and that Harris County is the most dangerous county in Texas. Survivors can be left dealing with devastating injuries, including broken bones, brain and spinal cord injuries, amputations, and paralysis.
Why are intersections in Houston so dangerous? One reason is the city’s rapid growth and the corresponding increase in the number of vehicles on the road. In general, intersections are especially vulnerable to crashes because they are where vehicles traveling in different directions come together, and decisions have to be made quickly. If one driver makes an error or disobeys a traffic law, the result can be a tragic accident, as other people may not be able to react in time to avoid a crash.
The Top 10 Dangerous Traffic Intersections in Houston
While all intersections present potential dangers, some are more dangerous than others. Using data compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), a group of University of Houston undergraduate students and their professor have identified what they say have become the 10 most dangerous non-freeway Houston intersections.
The results show the top 10 traffic accident intersections are:
- Pease St. & Fannin St. | Downtown Houston – 59 accidents
- Bissonnet & Westchester | West University Place – 41 accidents
- Main & Montrose | Museum District – 39 accidents
- FM 1960 & W. Lake Houston Parkway | Northeast Harris County – 39 accidents
- S. Gessner Rd & Westpark Dr | Westchase – 39 accidents
- Spencer Rd & Highway 6 | Northwest Harris County – 37 accidents
- Highway 6 & Bellaire Blvd | Alief – 37 accidents
- Treaschwig Rd & FM 1960 | North Harris County – 36 accidents
- Clay Rd. & Barker Cypress | Northwest Harris County – 36 accidents
- Highway 6 & Westheimer | West Houston – 36 accidents
The students conducted their research by studying the period from March 10, 2021, when Governor Greg Abbott officially reopened Texas after COVID, to February 25, 2022. They found that the above intersections in Harris County not only became hotspots for crashes during that period but that the number of accidents was higher than in 2018-2020, pre-pandemic.
Anyone traveling through these 10 Houston intersections should be especially vigilant and aware of the primary causes of intersection accidents and how to prevent them.
What Makes an Intersection Dangerous?
Drivers spend much of their time passing through or stopping at intersections, and one may look exactly like the next. But there are standards when it comes to planning and building an intersection. There is a general concept to creating a safe intersection, and it typically includes the following:
- The intersection must not be too short. During heavy traffic periods, drivers can clog up short intersections and force others to slam on their brakes even when they have a green light. Highway 225 and Beltway 8 is notorious for its short length and cumbersome turn lane.
- The intersection must not be too long. Longer intersections require more time to pass through, so drivers may still travel through the intersection when cross traffic is given the green light. Genoa Red Bluff Road and Beltway 8 is a rather long intersection, 300 feet from one side to the other, and it’s another dangerous intersection in Houston.
- The intersection must be clearly visible from a distance. If drivers cannot see traffic lights and other cars from a distance, they may be forced to react suddenly. For instance, the intersection at Highway 59 and FM 1960 is sitting at the top of an incline, shielding it from view until drivers are right on top of it.
- The intersection’s traffic lights must be reasonably timed. Rapid light cycles may help keep traffic flowing steadily, but drivers often don’t expect them, making it more likely to enter the intersection through a red light. Westheimer at Highway 6 and Highway 6 at FM 529 have been the subject of numerous complaints to the city due to their rapid light cycles.
The time of day, local traffic patterns, and the presence of popular businesses in the area can also affect accident numbers. In situations involving truck accidents, individuals may need the expertise of skilled truck accident attorneys to handle legal proceedings effectively.
It’s a lot for drivers to account for when on the road, but there are ways to mitigate the danger when passing through an intersection.
What Are the Leading Causes of Intersection Accidents?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the leading cause of intersection accidents is a driver who fails to notice the traffic signal and runs the traffic light. When drivers fail to stop at a red light or a stop sign, or try to make it through a changing yellow light, they are faced with oncoming traffic that is often traveling too fast to react in time. The result can be an intersection car crash with serious injuries.
Other major causes of intersection accidents include:
Speeding – The average road speeds in Texas are the highest in the nation, and when drivers travel through intersections at high speed, they are unprepared for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers that may not notice that the light has turned green. Drivers who are speeding down local roads can miss seeing approaching vehicles until it is too late, or they speed past a stop sign and cause a serious car crash.
Failing to yield the right of way – If there is no traffic signal at the intersection, there are still right of way rules, such as whoever gets to the intersection first usually has the right of way. However, drivers may not know or follow right-of-way rules, they may make an honest mistake, or they may communicate poorly with other drivers, resulting in a crash.
Left turns – Left turns are among the most dangerous maneuvers on the road and require careful timing. When a driver either doesn’t pay attention to oncoming traffic or attempts to beat a cyclist or vehicle, they can end up in a collision. Accidents that involve left-hand turns are often considered the fault of the driver making the turn. When traffic lights do not include left-turn indicators, drivers have to make their own judgment call as to whether it is safe to proceed. Poor judgment can result in a deadly ‘t-bone’ collision.
Right turns – Right turns are not always allowed at an intersection, but some drivers try to turn right anyway, and the result is a crash. In situations where a right turn is allowed at a red light in an intersection, a driver still cannot do so without a clear path to execute the turn.
Rear-ended and pushed into traffic – When a driver who is stopped at an intersection gets rear-ended by another vehicle, the stopped vehicle can be pushed into the intersection and collide with traffic driving in the other direction.
Not adjusting for weather or road conditions – When weather conditions make driving difficult, drivers need to make adjustments. If a driver doesn’t adjust for weather or road conditions, they may not be able to navigate an intersection safely.
Distracted or impaired driving – Alcohol or drug use can affect a driver’s ability to navigate roads safely, and this is particularly problematic at intersections. Driving while distracted, often caused by paying attention to cell phones, texting, fiddling with controls, eating and drinking, or talking to passengers, takes attention away from the road and allows mistakes, and that can result in an intersection crash.
Defective equipment – Defective vehicles or defective parts may cause malfunctions that result in a collision. The defective equipment might be a maintenance issue, or it might be a defect with the vehicle itself.
Obstructions in the road – When there is not a clear view at an intersection, drivers may not be able to see that vehicles are coming.
Pedestrians – While Texas traffic laws require vehicles to stop for pedestrians at designated crosswalks in intersections, it is possible to miss seeing a pedestrian or bicycle in a blind spot. In cases of accidents, it’s crucial to consult a Pedestrian accident attorney to understand your legal options. Additionally, sudden jaywalkers can cause confusion or make it difficult for drivers to stop, further emphasizing the need for legal guidance.
Road rage — Four-way intersections usually draw high volumes of traffic, and there may be long delays at lights. This can lead to road rage where people make mistakes that increase the risk of accidents.
Problems with intersection construction – If signage is inadequate, hidden, or non-existent, if lighting is poor enough to reduce visibility, if crosswalks are improperly placed, if intersections are not constructed at 90 degrees, or if there are other problems, the chances of a crash are increased.
Design quirks and technical issues at intersections can affect accident rates, but driver error is still the No. 1 cause of vehicle crashes. Driver error can refer to a number of risky behaviors, all of which are preventable and should be avoided, especially when moving through intersections. It’s impossible to account for every risk, but removing driver error from the equation will maximize a driver’s likelihood of remaining safe, even when frequenting Houston’s most dangerous intersections.
What Can be Done About Houston’s Dangerous Intersections?
If an intersection is inherently dangerous due to the poor road construction factors mentioned above, then the government agencies in charge should do some fixing. Unfortunately, that takes money – and many local and city municipalities are just too strapped for cash to invest in improvements.
There are some efforts being made. Houston Police Department’s new Safe Roadways Initiative aims to eliminate aggressive driving and road rage on our streets, and HPD is collaborating with several Houston-area law enforcement agencies, including the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety. To support this initiative, HPD is focusing on education and messaging in addition to enforcement, including these features in their plan of action:
- HPD Officers, working in a combination of marked and unmarked units, will patrol major freeways in the city during peak traffic times.
- Regional partners will act as a force multiplier, communicating directly with HPD units working on this initiative.
- Officers will be proactively looking for aggressive driving behavior:
- Excessive speeding
- Following too closely
- Multiple lane changes without signaling
- Obscene gestures and other acts of aggression directed at motorists
- Unreasonable use of vehicles’ horns.
The best precaution against dangerous intersections is still you, the driver. Always think ahead – and be proactive. Never assume the other driver, pedestrian, or bike rider will do as you expect. It only takes one lapse of attention for an accident to happen.
Get Legal Help for an Intersection Accident
If you or a loved one was injured or someone has died in an intersection accident that was due to another party’s negligence or fault, you may be entitled to compensation through insurance or a lawsuit. However, Texas injury laws are complicated, and insurance companies and their attorneys will try to deny your claim or get you to settle for the lowest amount possible.
Fortunately, you do not have to fight for fair compensation on your own. The Houston car accident attorneys at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law understand the difficulties you face after a traumatic intersection accident, and we have the knowledge and resources to build a strong case with the best chances of winning a favorable verdict or settlement. We can take the burden off you by handling all legal hurdles, negotiations with insurance companies and their attorneys, paperwork, and court appearances involved with proving liability and winning the settlement you deserve, so you can focus on your recovery.
We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your intersection accident and determine the best way to move forward. There are no fees to you unless you win, so call us today at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000.