Like it or not, fewer turns means safer driving

Installing medians on heavily traveled Treasure Valley roads has reduced crashes.

sberg@idahostatesman.comNovember 15, 2013 

One of Boise shoppers' favorite illegal left turns isn't an option anymore.

The Ada County Highway District is installing medians on Overland Road between Vinnell Way and Entertainment Avenue. The physical barriers enforce what's long been the law: no left turns out of the parking lots of Walmart and other stores north of Overland.

Signs at the most popular exit from Walmart tell drivers they may turn right on Overland or go straight across to South Milwaukee Street, but people made the illegal left turns anyway, and in large numbers.

The medians should reduce the number of crashes at the Milwaukee-Overland-Walmart corner, where 59 crashes occurred between 2006 and 2010. Left turns into and out of the area accounted for 52 of those crashes, according to the highway district's statistics. That's on top of 79 other crashes related to rear-ending, sideswiping, right turns and other factors on that stretch of road.

It's very clear that medians reduce crashes, said ACHD spokeswoman Christine Myron.

"If you put a solid median down a roadway and restrict movements, it's going to give the greatest crash reduction," Myron said. "The more you restrict turning movements, the more you limit crashes."

That notion was behind several Idaho Transportation Department projects in recent years. One, on Eagle Road between Fairview Avenue and Chinden Boulevard, was finished this fall.

As with the highway district's Overland Road project and many others, the point was to eliminate cars going from a full stop across multiple lanes of oncoming traffic and into a stream of cars traveling at near-highway speeds, ITD spokesman Reed Hollinshead said.

"We were experiencing quite a few accidents, especially from people who were trying to gauge the speed of oncoming traffic and they would expose themselves broadside," Hollinshead said. "People coming from a dead stop on a side street, they just couldn't get up to speed, and they'd take chances."

A similar project installed dividers and a median just west of the Chinden Boulevard-Glenwood Street corner. Those barriers stop people from turning left out of the businesses southwest of the corner into Chinden's westbound traffic.

In 2008, the year before the islands were installed, that corner had 11 crashes, Garden City Police Sgt. Russ Winter said. The next year, there were just two crashes.

And besides the number of crashes, Winter said, the intensity of crashes has lessened.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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