Accidents Commonplace On Washington Street In City

The intersection of Washington and Fourth streets is buzzing with traffic.

There’s nothing particularly unusual about it. The intersection is one of the busiest in the city.

So it only makes sense it’s also one of the most dangerous, in terms of accidents reported by the Jamestown Police Department.

An analysis by The Post-Journal shows there have been dozens of documented accidents at the intersection since 2008. The reports range from minor fender-benders to vehicle rollovers and a nearby fatality.

Jamestown police have long studied the pattern of accidents at the intersection. Awareness campaigns and state-funded programs have targeted and pinpointed the dangers of the highly traveled stretch of roadway.

However, authorities have learned that preventing a serious collision or even the routine swap of paint ends up falling on the driver.

“If you look at the causes (of accidents), they vary,” said Harry Snellings, Jamestown police chief. “We have people that run the red light; we also have people that are hit from behind when they are stopped at the traffic light trying to make a left-hand turn.

“There’s no pattern. It boils down to driver inattention. We have ample traffic-control devices that should deter those kind of things from happening.”

At least one common factor in the accidents is apparent. According to Capt. Robert Samuelson of the Jamestown Police Department, many of the accidents are occurring during peak driving hours. High-traffic times usually fall between 7-9 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and later at 3-6 p.m.

To combat a log-jam on Third Street, a two-way thoroughfare, cars are not permitted to turn left onto Washington Street during peak driving hours. The rule does not apply to Fourth Street.

THE STATISTICS

Since 2008, there have been 44 reported accidents at the intersection of Washington and Fourth streets, according to Jamestown police. As of Thursday, four had been documented this year.

“It’s just the volume of traffic,” Snellings said. “It’s the speeds.”

Added Samuelson, “I’m willing to bet if you pulled any intersection in Western New York that’s a heavy traffic area you’d probably get similar numbers.”

Main Street, meanwhile, also is the location of numerous accidents every year. Over the last five years there have been 23 accidents at the intersection of Main and Fourth streets; 19 accidents were reported at the intersection of Main and Eighth over that same time.

Then there’s Main and Harrison streets, an intersection which has recorded a whopping 77 accidents since 2008, Jamestown police said. Snellings attributed the number of reports to the volume of traffic, which connects two highly driven roads.

Washington Street, though, continues to see its fair share of problems. For instance:

Police and fire personnel on Feb. 5 this year responded to a rollover accident at the intersection of Washington and Fourth. A silver SUV was found resting on its side; only minor injuries were reported.

Police later sought public assistance to determine fault. “Someone ran a red light, and we are trying to see which driver it was,” Samuelson said at the time. “It’s not fair to the person who wasn’t violating the law.”

A pedestrian was killed Dec. 6 attempting to cross Fourth Street just past Washington Street. The 85-year-old woman was struck by a pickup truck while crossing the busy road shortly before 11 a.m.

ENFORCEMENT

Jamestown police have beefed up patrols around high-traffic areas, including Main and Washington streets. Police have utilized the state-funded Selective Traffic Enforcement Program to target dangerous driving habits and reduce future accidents.

Capt. Todd Isaacson of the Jamestown Police Department said STEP has allowed police to monitor and enforce traffic laws through undercover patrols and unmarked vehicles.

“We put guys out there and we look for motorists who are operating and violating traffic laws,” Isaacson said. “The idea is to be out there aggressively and target these individuals in a zero-tolerance approach.”

Jamestown police also routinely issue press releases when school commences in the fall to remind motorists of bus laws. The national “Click It or Ticket” campaign is big with law enforcement agencies here, as well.

A camera was placed at the intersection of Washington and Third streets last year with the help of state grants. The camera, which can monitor other sections of Washington Street, is used to oversee all activity in the area. That includes events at the nearby Jamestown Savings Bank Arena and other affairs.

The police department is looking at securing an additional camera on Fourth Street

“We’re trying to build off where we’re at,” Snellings said of additional monitoring. “And not just for car traffic but for pedestrian traffic.”

With speed limits near 30 mph for most of the city and multiple traffic lights, there isn’t much else the city can do to limit accidents.

“It’s really up to the drivers at this point,” Snellings said.