Just off Interstate 70, and in the middle of the city's newest commercial area, with senior living, a hotel and conference center, golf course and large health clinic all nearby, the intersection of Adams Dairy Parkway and Coronado Drive in eastern Blue Springs can sometimes be a congested maelstrom of vehicles.
It also appears to be the most-accident prone intersection for vehicles in Eastern Jackson County.
Data from the Blue Springs Police Department showed that intersection has been the site of 99 traffic accidents from 2016 through 2018, at least 20 more than any other location in the city.
Even without seeing the numbers before, Blue Springs officer Troy Hofstetter said he's not surprised to hear of that intersection, which has multiple instances of double turn lanes that soon consolidate or break off.
“It's just a high-traffic area, and there's so many different turn lanes,” Hofstetter said. “You've got the stores there; it's just a very busy intersection.”
“It's doing very well as far as traffic flow, but people might get distracted sometimes by what they just bought.”
Unfamiliarity with an intersection can lead to some accidents with drivers realizing they need to be in a different lane, and while that can happen anywhere, Hofstetter said, this particular intersection can be tricky.
In 2016-18, the Adams Dairy/Coronado intersection had 29, 41 and 29 accidents, according to Blue Springs Police – first or second (behind U.S. 40/Missouri 7) among the city's highest-accident locations each year and higher than all but one recent number from Independence locations.
The Examiner requested and received data from Independence and Blue Springs police departments and Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop A for crash numbers in recent years. For the Highway Patrol, the focus was on Interstate 470 through Lee's Summit.
For Independence in 2018 and through early Nov. 11 this year, police list Missouri 291 at Gudgell Street as the site of most accidents for any intersection – 20 this year and 12 last year. Looking at Interstate 70, the area near Phelps Road has had nine accidents this year after 29 last year.
In general, Missouri 291 north of 39th Street and I-70 through the city, followed by U.S. 40 at Sterling Avenue, Valley View Parkway and Little Blue Parkway have had the highest numbers of IPD accident case.
As one can imagine from those areas, “These are heavily influenced by volume of traffic,” Sgt. Jason Petersen said.
“A vast majority are following too closely,” he said. “Speed has always been historically a contributing factor, and with following too closely goes hand-in-hand.”
The Highway Patrol handles several hundred accidents a year on I-70 in Eastern Jackson County and Interstate 470 from Independence into Lee's Summit. The stretch of I-470 from Colbern Road (where M-291 breaks off) to U.S. 50 draws more patrol accident cases than any other stretch of roadway in Jackson County, Sgt. Bill Lowe said.
Narrowing down even further, Lowe said, “The Summit Fair area near I-470 and Pryor (Road) is where we have the majority of our investigations occur.”
On Facebook, The Examiner asked for residents’ thoughts. Those responses concentrated mainly on highways, including the I-470/U.S. 50/Missouri 350 interchange area noted by Highway Patrol, as well as U.S. 50 through its various interchanges in Lee's Summit.
One follower offered I-70 between Missouri 7 and Adams Dairy, where I-70 eastbound contracts from three lanes to two. Besides Adams Dairy/Coronado intersection, the M-7 intersections with Shaw Parkway and Mock Avenue, the former of which drew mention from another follower, are the closest ones from I-70 and have also been high on Blue Springs lists of late.
Too close, too distracted
Officer Hofstetter has been with Blue Springs just a year, but with his year in the Highway Patrol and has a Carroll County Sheriff, his law enforcement career spans 28 years. Whether it be busy city thoroughfares, highways or open county roads, one trend in general that continues to rise is accidents caused in part by distracted driving. People too often can't wait a bit to check that text, see who is calling or do something else tech-related.
“Without a doubt,” Hofstetter said, there are more possible distractions in a car than in years past. “Even if you have a Bluetooth or a hands-free device, when you get a call you still look to push a button.”
That can lead to inattention and/or following too closely, and Hofstetter recounted an accident he had worked just that morning.
“The lady said she saw them (in front of her), looked down for just a second and by the time she looked up it was too late to stop,” he said. “That's what it is about 85 to 90 percent of the time. Especially when you get in a 40 miles per hour zone or even a 35, you still cover a lot of ground.”
Petersen agrees there are certainly more opportunities for distracted driving than ever before, even if it's not immediately evident for investigating officers.
“One of the things that's difficult to determine is if people were using cell phones,” he said. “They often don't admit to it.”
Petersen said it can be easy to forget that driving is a divided-attention task, and just one extra distraction can throw everything off course.
“Even in perfect conditions, it requires you to focus on many things at the same point,” he said. “There's a tipping point that can be reached very quickly when things start to go poorly.”
Yes, the area received a snow dusting in October. But this weekend, with a few inches of snow forecast all around, promises to test people's winter driving mettle, as snow and ice can amplify accident causes.
“After the first snow we get, or the first icy roads, people might take it for granted how much time they have,” Hofstetter said. “The first one kind of gives them a reality check.”
Petersen said he doesn't usually see more vehicular accidents in wintry weather.
“Routinely people will pay more attention as conditions deteriorate,” he said.
Hofstetter said people also might not appreciate the hazard a simple summer rain.
“Even in the summertime, when it's 90 degrees, you've got the oils on the roads,” he said, “and even a light mist can make it just as slick.”