William Street sees most Cape accidents

Saturday, June 30, 2007
Traffic moved through the intersection of William Street and Mount Auburn Road on Monday. The location has a high traffic accident count. (Fred Lynch)

As Cape Girardeau has grown, so have the number of cars on its roads. The city has more than 100,000 drivers on its roads on daily basis.

"It's getting busier and busier," said Richard Rehkopf of Cape Girardeau. "It's just really hard to get out certain times of the day. I think Cape is getting worse because it's growing continually."

According to police department figures, the number of accidents so far this year is comparable to the same period last year.

This year, 1,234 vehicles have been involved in 652 accidents, causing 149 injuries, according to the Cape Girardeau Police Department. Last year, 3,118 vehicles were involved in 1,641 accidents and 350 injuries, including one fatality.

Since Jan. 1, 2006, the intersection of Mount Auburn Road and William Street has seen the most accidents with 51, followed by Broadway and Kingshighway with 38 crashes and Route K and Farrar Drive with 33 accidents.

"A lot of the crashes are at intersections where one vehicle is pulling up, stopping and another vehicle behind them is pulling forward and crashing into the rear end of the vehicle," said Sgt. Kevin Orr, who is in charge of the traffic division at the Cape Girardeau Police Department. "We're hearing a lot of 'I thought the other vehicle was going.'"

A statistical breakdown of motor vehicle accidents by the police since January 2006 shows that following too closely contributed to 788 accidents, followed by failure to yield with 421, improper lane usage/change with 356 and driver inattention with 170. Alcohol and drugs have been factors in 55 accidents in the same period.

Cape Girardeau drivers have their own ideas on how to make the streets safer.

"I think they could eliminate many of the left-hand turns, especially on side streets, and make everyone turn right," Rehkopf said. "We have a lot of people trying to turn left onto major thoroughfares, and it holds up traffic. It makes people angry, people like myself."

Another common idea is to add traffic signals.

However, city of Cape Girardeau traffic operation engineer Kelly Green said it's a misconception that signals will increase safety.

"Typically accidents won't be reduced at an intersection because of placement of a traffic signal," Green said. "It will reduce the number of right-angle, or T-bone, accidents. But people will still rear-end each other."

Still, some city drivers disagree.

"There are some spots that need traffic lights, like Independence Street," said Verna Shelton of Cape Girardeau. "It's really hard to get out sometimes during the day. Independence is turning into one of the busier streets, whereas it used to be a side street."

Green said the timing of traffic lights is not the problem, either. The city checks the timing annually, usually in the winter, Green said, and will adjust some lights during special events, such as concerts at the Show Me Center.

"I think the city of Cape is doing a great job of keeping up with the traffic lights," Green said. "Sometimes people call in and we will check on complaints and change the timing as needed. But we really get more questions than complaints."

According to Green, the city maintains 19 signals; all signals on Route K, Kingshighway and Highway 74, which are state routes, are the responsibility of the Missouri Department of Transportation.

jsamons@semissourian

335-6611, extension 245

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