NEWS

Cops aim to put dent in accidents

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 8/19/21

By JOHN HOWELL Based on the number of automobile accidents as of yesterday - 1,814 - Warwick can expect more than 3,500 accidents by the end of the year for an average of about 10 per day. Warwick Police aim to put a dent in the numbers. The severity of

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NEWS

Cops aim to put dent in accidents

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Based on the number of automobile accidents as of yesterday — 1,814 — Warwick can expect more than 3,500 accidents by the end of the year for an average of about 10 per day.

Warwick Police aim to put a dent in the numbers.

The severity of these accidents range from minor fender benders to fatalities such as the recent head on collision on Main Avenue.

The numbers don’t include minor fender benders where damage is less than $1,000 and there are no injuries. Understandably, the more heavily traveled roads in the city experience a greater number of accidents.

Most of these roads are state roads, yet it is Warwick Police and rescue that respond to the calls. This is also true of Routes 95, 295 and 37, although if State Police are on the scene, Warwick Police don’t respond unless requested.

What are the accident hot spots where motorists should be extra cautious and might measures be taken to reduce accidents at these locations?

Those are questions Warwick police are asking daily says Col. Brad Connor.

Finding answers is the goal of a program initiated by Capt. Joel Thomas and now being carried out by Capt. Robert Hart. In a change of assignments, Hart assumed the role of director of the community services division on Wednesday while Thomas was assigned to the professional standards division.

Within the last month, the department acquired a computer program that pinpoints accidents on a map of the city that can zero in on a specific location or give a larger perspective of the city showing clusters of accidents.

Blue dots indicate clusters of several accidents while yellow dots have greater numbers and red dots are the greatest concentration.

So far this year the Apponaug Circulator and Centerville Road to the west are in the red cluster. Hart is looking to do a deeper dive than simply identifying areas prone to accidents. Officers have been directed to read individual reports to identify factors that may be common to the accidents.

Hart, who has worked traffic and covered hundreds of accidents, identified “driver distraction” as a frequent cause to accidents.

He identified cell phone use and a dog in the lap as common distractions.

Hart said the department has an active enforcement program funded through a federal grant where officers in an unmarked vehicle pull over motorists who appear to be concentrating on something other than driving.

In some cases the driver may be cited while in others they may be issued a warning or educated on the dangers of their behavior.

Factors that can come into play other than driver behavior and impairments include the weather, road conditions and the time of day. Evening sun glare, for example, may be a common factor to accidents on Sandy Lane. Similarly ice and snow could be factors contributing to accidents on hillier parts of the city in Cowesett.

Interviewed prior to his new assignment, Thomas anticipated the analysis of reports would identify areas where signage, improved visibility with the clearing of shrubs and obstructions, better definition of lanes, relocation of traffic signals and a variety of other measures would enhance safety.

The city is not alone in looking at the data from the perspective of improving conditions. The state Department of Transportation is provided accident data on an ongoing basis explained spokesman Charles St. Martin. This goes into the “engineered side” of accident analysis.

As examples of engineered answers to accidents, St. Charles cites the western end of Route 37 in Cranston and ramps that have been the sites of wrong-way traffic frequently ending in head-on collisions.

Route 37 where it intersects with Phenix and Natick Avenues was the site of numerous rear end accidents until the state increased signage and reduced the width of the lanes.

To address wrong way traffic, the DOT identified 24 ramps susceptible to wrong way driving. Sensors were installed on the ramps that activate flashing warning lights. If the driver fails to reverse direction an alarm is triggered at DOT that in turn notifies police.

Digital signs on the highways are activated to notify motorists to be on the look out for a wrong way driver. Since the devices were installed, St. Martin said, only one wrong way motorist has actually entered the highway.

Based on his experience, Hart expects the number of accidents to increase during the holidays on Route 2 because of increased traffic. Usually, by the end of the year the department will have responded to more than 5,000 vehicular accidents, he said.

Since minor accidents have been reduced to single-page reports thereby saving officers completion of reports that can run 10 pages, Hart expects the number of accidents involving injuries and damage in excess of $1,000 to be less than 4,000 this year.

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