KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan is home to six of the state’s top 10 worst intersections for winter crashes, and the top two spots are on the same street.
The intersection of 44th Street SE at Eastern Avenue Southeast in Kentwood saw the most crashes on snowy, icy or slushy roads, according to records compiled by the Traffic Crash Reporting Unit of the Michigan State Police. A total of 76 winter weather-related crashes were reported at that intersection between Nov. 1, 2010 and March 31, 2015.
Drivers need only travel four miles west to find the next worst area. The intersection of 44th Street and Byron Center Avenue SW in Wyoming was the scene of 59 crashes during that same time frame.
Michigan Auto Law, a Farmington Hills-based law firm that specializes in vehicle crashes, worked with the traffic crash reporting unit to compile the top 20 list:
- 44th Street SE at Eastern Avenue SE, Grand Rapids (76 crashes)
- 44th Street SW at Byron Center Avenue SW, Grand Rapids (59 crashes)
- U.S. 31 at W. South Airport Road, Garfield Township (Tied – 56 crashes)
- S. 9th Street at Stadium Avenue, Oshtemo Township (Tied – 56 crashes)
- 44th Street SE at Breton Road SE, Grand Rapids (Tied – 54 crashes)
- Howard Street at Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (Tied – 54 crashes)
- S. Drake Road at W.K.L. Avenue, Kalamazoo (51 crashes)
- 3 Mile Road at U.S. 31, East Bay Township (50 crashes)
- South Airport Road at N. Garfield Road, Garfield Township (45 crashes)
- N. Division Street at W. Front Street , Traverse City (Tied – 42 crashes)
- E. Broomfield Road at S. Mission Road, Mount Pleasant (Tied – 42 crashes)
- Northbound I-475 at S. Grand Traverse Street, Flint (Tied – 39 crashes)
- Memorial Road at Razorback Drive, Houghton (Tied – 39 crashes)
- 28th Street SE at Breton Road SE, Grand Rapids (38 crashes)
- E. Jolly Road at S. Cedar Street, Lansing (36 crashes)
- 56th Street SW at Byron Center Avenue SW, Wyoming (Tied – 35 crashes)
- Barlow Street at La Franier Road, Garfield Township (Tied – 35 crashes)
- Memorial Road at Sharon Avenue, Houghton (Tied – 34 crashes)
- County Road HQ at U.S. 41, Marquette Township (Tied – 34 crashes)
- 6 Mile Road at Beck Road, Northville Township (Tied – 34 crashes)
Steven Gursten of Michigan Auto Law hopes the list will remind drivers to slow down when conditions warrant it.
The impact of lake-effect snow on the west side of the state played a big role in earning West Michigan eight spots on the top 20 list. Researchers only counted crashes that occurred when police reports described road conditions as “snowy, icy or slushy.”
Officials with the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood pointed to several factors that might make the first- and second-place intersections more crash prone in winter conditions. First, both 44th and Eastern and 44th and Byron Center are among the cities’ most highly traveled intersections. Both spots are also home to several businesses that have multiple driveways located very close to the intersections.
“Also, eastbound 44th (at Byron Center) is a downhill grade with a lot of ingress and egress for the local neighborhoods and businesses,” Wyoming Department of Public Safety Lt. Mark Easterly explained. “This area tends to back up at differing times of the day and if some drivers are not paying attention then we can get some rear-end crashes, etc. that can be compounded with road conditions.”
There’s also a very slight downhill grade on westbound 44th at Eastern, just enough to cause slide-offs and rear-enders when drivers are going too fast in icy conditions.
“The 44th Street Southwest and Byron Center Avenue Southwest intersection is a focused priority for winter maintenance,” Russ Henckel, Wyoming’s assistant director of public works and engineering said. “The intersection receives priority for both salting and for police presence. Police and public works personnel do monitor the area and look for opportunities to pre-salt the intersection.”
Wyoming also took several steps over the summer that leaders hope will reduce the number of crashes at the intersection this year.
“We updated the intersection’s signal controller to coordinate better with other controllers on 44th Street,” Henckel explained. “This also allowed us to install pedestrian push buttons at the crosswalks. These push buttons allow more ‘green time’ on 44th Street if there is not a pedestrian present. This means cars need to stop less frequently.”
John Richard, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Transportation, says intersections landed on the top 20 list for three reasons.
“It’s a matter of traffic volumes, driver behavior and weather,” Richard said. “28th Street and 44th Street carry a lot of traffic.”
West Michigan was also home to 17 of the top 20 most crash-prone stretches of winter roads in the state, the law firm found. The rankings do not take into account the increased volume of traffic at certain intersections, nor the severity of the crashes in terms of injuries.
Last winter, Target 8 investigators worked with the Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Reporting Unit to map the locations of fatal and serious injury accidents in winter conditions.
Target 8 found that the majority of fatal accidents occurred on rural, county roads, not highways.
You can search MSP’s award-winning traffic crash database yourself. It allows you to filter results based on multiple factors, including location of accident and various driver characteristics.