When you hear about a car accident in Pennsylvania, you probably assume a driver was to blame. While human error is a leading cause of automotive accidents, sometimes the road itself is the real hazard. Sometimes, a road’s very design makes it dangerous – no matter how well or how often it’s repaired and maintained. Did you know that Pennsylvania contains the deadliest intersection in the entire country? Or that a single county in Pennsylvania accounts for one out of ten car accidents in the state?
High over the jungles of rural Bolivia, the North Yungas Road – better known by its nickname of “the Death Road” – cuts a precarious path along the Cordillera Oriental Mountain chain. There are no guardrails, no safety fences, no hospitals nearby – just a few brave drivers who painstakingly navigate a sheer drop that could send them plummeting thousands of feet into the Amazon below. While exact numbers are unknown, most estimates hold that hundreds perish on the Death Road every year.
Pennsylvania’s roads may not be quite as extreme, but that doesn’t mean they’re free of dangers. In fact, Pennsylvania is home to one of the deadliest stretches of highway in the country.
Nicknamed the Delaware Expressway, I-95 winds through a chaotic knot of Philadelphia traffic, interchanging with I-76 – a span of road notorious among locals. Motorists attempt to navigate narrow lanes under constant construction while battling aggressive, speeding drivers as they pass beneath the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
According to data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this section of highway ranks number 39 on a top 100 list of America’s deadliest roads, the only entry for the state of Pennsylvania. There were 41 fatal accidents resulting in 46 deaths from 2004 to 2008 – nearly one fatality for each mile of this short stretch’s 51-mile span. (I-76 is even more dangerous in New Jersey, with six fatalities on a mere three miles of highway during the same time period.)
Other poor performers included I-78 and I-80 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike), and the I-79/I-70 interchange.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, or PennDOT, releases an annual report on statewide crash facts and statistics. According to the 2014 report, state highways had the highest number of accidents with over 88,700 crashes. The 10 Pennsylvania counties containing the most miles of state highway, all between 2-3%, were:
As a result, you might expect these counties to have the highest number of accidents. However, there didn’t appear to be as strong as a correlation as you might expect. Pennsylvania counties with the most reported traffic crashes were primarily concentrated in Eastern Pennsylvania, particularly around the Philadelphia area:
Surprisingly, Philadelphia was not the worst performer. That dubious honor belongs to Allegheny County, which accounted for a staggering 10% of all crashes in the state of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia County did, however, follow closely behind, accounting for 8.6% of all accidents.
The numbers change again when you consider only fatal accidents. Philadelphia County reported the highest number of traffic-related deaths (8.1%), while Allegheny County had about half as many fatalities (4.9%). This data seems to indicate that drivers are more likely to crash in Allegheny County, but are more likely to have serious accidents in the Philadelphia area.
At the other end of the spectrum from state highways, turnpikes were statistically the safest types of roads, accounting for 2,455 crashes. Local roads fell in the middle, accounting for 30,138 accidents.
According to a TIME Magazine analysis of a decade’s worth of NHTSA data (2003 to 2012), Pennsylvania is also home to the most dangerous intersection in America. If you’re local to Bucks County, you may have driven through it yourself. It’s located in Bensalem, PA, at the intersection of Street Road and Knights Road near a Subway, a gas station, and a Kohl’s.
It might look like a normal small-town intersection, but its accident numbers are anything but average: seven fatal crashes in 10 years, plus an additional 144 crashes causing 170 deaths and injuries along a single mile of Street Road (which contains the intersection itself). Over 36,000 vehicles roll down Street Road each day – and all of them must contend with problems like poor lighting, aggressive drivers, and ambiguous road signs.
“It’s quirky,” says Bucks County transportation director Dave Johnson, “because it’s not a 90-degree intersection.” The intersections’ unusual shape contributes to the remarkable frequency of accidents.
As all this information goes to show, driving in Pennsylvania can be hazardous. If you were injured in a car accident in Philadelphia County, Allegheny County, or elsewhere in the state, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain, suffering, and financial losses. To set up a free and confidential case evaluation about your accident, call personal injury lawyer Brent Wieand at (888) 789-3161.