New Study Identifies San Jose’s Most Dangerous Intersections

Nearly 8,000 intersection-related traffic collisions took place in San Jose from 2013 to 2017, leaving 103 people dead and another 10,118 wounded.

The most dangerous neighborhood in terms of car crashes? Alum Rock, by far. The East Side swath of the city saw 1,042 crashes and 1,399 injuries across 592 intersections during that same timeframe.

The most dangerous intersection? McLaughlin Avenue and Story Road. While no fatalities occurred at the busy juncture, it topped the charts in terms of total crashes (34) and total injuries (45).

That’s according to a new study conducted by data analysis firm 1Point21 Interactive and commissioned by San Jose law office Henshaw & Henry. (Click here to read it).

The report isolated all intersection crashes during a five-year period and ranked each location based on a weighted crash index score that factors in crash and death volume and severity of injuries for each crossing. Crashes that occurred on highway on-ramps and off-ramps were not included.

After crunching the numbers, analysts found 65 intersections in San Jose that scored 50 or higher—nearly five times the average score for the city’s 4,471 intersections where a crash took place. Following Alum Rock, other dangerous neighborhoods in terms of intersection collisions include Central San Jose (836 crashes), South San Jose (762), Edenvale (619) and Evergreen (416).

South San Jose saw the highest number of deaths, however, with 19 over the five-year period covered by the study.

Though society has socially conditioned the public to accept car crashes as a fact of life, especially in major cities, these statistics should be nothing short of shocking. They’re another reminder that in San Jose, traffic fatalities remain a leading cause of death. And that car-centric street design renders too many parts of the city a death trap.

San Jose set out to fix the problem by implementing a plan called Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths in part by reshaping the urban landscape. But since rolling out the blueprint for a safer streets, the city has fallen short of that lofty goal.

Pedestrian deaths spiked in San Jose last year. Mayor Sam Liccardo’s collision with a car during a bicycle ride on New Year’s Day brought the issue back to the fore in 2019. And in some cases, as San Jose Inside has previously reported, the city continues to design roadways that directly conflict with the standards set by Vision Zero.

Analysts who worked on this new study for Henshaw & Henry said they hope their findings improve traffic safety by raising awareness.

“Will knowing that more crashes occur on McLaughlin and Story make someone pay more attention around that intersection? We certainly hope so,” said 1Point21 researcher Brian Beltz. “On occasion, these types of data analysis uncover a dangerous condition that can be fixed or improved to make that road or intersection safer. If even one accident is prevented based on our analysis, we’d feel pretty good about that.”

Shiloh Ballard, head of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, said the data is useful—but it raises many more questions. “We know where and often we know what happened,” she said. “Car X ran red light and collided into Car B. What we don’t know is why. What was [the driver of] Car X doing when they ran the light? Was the sun in their eyes? Were they looking at their phone. Were they speeding? Do they have cataracts and don’t see very well? Is the intersection confusing?”

Ballard said she’s been wrestling with those questions in light of the latest such crash, which took the life of a cyclist in South San Jose Monday morning.

“On the face of it, and admittedly only having limited information that is in the press, a woman was pulling out of a minimart driveway and hit two people riding bikes,” she said. “If that woman was behaving as we all normally do, she likely wasn’t speeding out of the driveway—simply because that’s kind of hard to do. I mean, how do you hit two bicyclists and kill one in that situation. What caused her to behave that way?”

Without the answers to those kinds of questions, it’s tough to understand how to fix the problem, Ballard lamented.

“That said,” she continued, “what we do know is that other countries have focused on street design and seen more dramatic improvements in safety. We also know that speed kills. Narrower lanes and lower speed limits can slow people down. But will the public trade off speed for safety?”

Maybe tragedies like the Monday morning crash at Vistapark Drive and Capitol Expressway—the city’s 26th traffic fatality of 2019—will make the broader public realize the need for that kind of tradeoff.

“Streets for everyone—whether you’re a person driving, walking or pedaling—are one of the most dangerous places to be,” Ballard said. “Ways to improve street safety include better design and slower speeds. We must put our heads down and muster the political will to prioritize safety over speed, not the other way around.”

Source: Henshaw & Henry / 1Point21

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

18 Comments

  1. Ban Bikes from riding on the streets and the accidents and fatalities will plummet.
    I would bet the Bicycles kill more people than guns in San Jose.

  2. > “Streets for everyone—whether you’re a person driving, walking or pedaling—are one of the most dangerous places to be,” Ballard said.

    Streets are NOT for everyone.

    Children shouldn’t play in the streets.

    Pedestrians shouldn’t pedestriate in the streets.

    Skateboarders shouldn’t skate in the streets. Scooters shouldn’t scoot in the streets. BICYCLISTS SHOULDN’T BIKE IN STREETS — especially in high-speed arterials and expressways.

    > Shiloh Ballard, head of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition . . . .

    Shiloh Ballard is part of the problem: hyping an inherently dangerous co-mingling of fundamentally incompatible modes of transportation.

    • What would you have them do? Ride on the sidewalk? Cyclists should follow the rules of road, agree. Suburbian living made cars the ruling transportation method and look what good that had done: accidents, death, smog, CO2 gases, road rage, congestion, long commutes. I like cars but am not so narrow to see that there are other means of transportation that might actually be healthy for you. SIMPLE: RESPECT for others on the road.

    • The real problem is we give anyone and everyone a license. Then they are let loose on the street with all the bicyclists (the ones we are encouraging to ride in the road with our stupid new plan) who don’t follow the rules of the road either. So when there is an auto vs. bicycle accident guess who gets dead, or at least hurt….. Sam does.
      Take bikes off the road. They are unsafe, they are unruly and they are clogging traffic.

      By the way, we could reduce the line at the DMV, reduce traffic congestion, make the roads safer, and increase ridership on the VTA if we didn’t give out licenses to everyone with a heartbeat.
      Just sayin….

  3. > Though society has socially conditioned the public to accept car crashes as a fact of life, . . .

    Jennifer:

    Thanks for pointing out my social conditioning. I had no idea.

    I thought I might have had free will or something.

    Can you tell me what’s going to happen to me when I see a picture of Sam Liccardo or Gavin Newsom on the TV?

  4. McLaughlin and Story, lots of Vietnamese/Asian immigrants in that area which statistically have been known to cause many accidents. We need more security in Vietnam Town and video surveillance to hold those accountable.

  5. Well Vi Nguyen, I see people ignoring the red lights all over San José, speeding, and texting. Most fatal accidents reported on new stories show these accidents happen late at night or early in the morning. Most fatal accidents also show a substance factor. Riding a bike in San Jose is a suicidal intent! Most speeders are males.

  6. Shiloh Ballard is right to point out that while the intersection collision and fatality report raises some super troubling questions regarding street safety, it doesn’t answer them. The obvious issue is: what is it about those intersections that are causing the disproportionate danger? It would be good to know the traffic volume at those intersections also, to find out how much higher the collision incidence/car trip through is. And if there have been any changes in street design, construction, nearby development, etc. which could also account for the danger. Usually planners look to street design to address these issues, and that’s not a bad starting point, but there could be other factors involved as well. Remember: most collisions and accidents are caused by driver error.

    In any case, thanks Jennifer for the story and thanks to H&H Law for commissioning the report . Let’s hope DOT takes this report to the next level and starts answering the q’s Ballard calls out. The numbers are scary, indeed.

  7. Banning bikes is just a weak, not well thought our argument. Cycling is a transportation method that reduces traffic congestion and reduces air pollution and CO2 gases and allow people to get exercise for their mind, heart and health! Riding bikes helps people with PTSD, Parkinsons, Stress and heart health. IT IS GOOD FOR YOU and I bet the “ban bikes” have never rode a bike. SOLUTION: LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING. PAY ATTENTION. SHARE THE ROAD.

    • Bikes are dangerous and should Not be allowed on the road. People are being injured and killed by riding bikes on the road. Bike lanes are causing traffic congestion (which Causes air pollution) and encouraging cars to use residential streets never meant for traffic loads, which causes unsafe conditions for residents. Bikes are dangerous to everyday people, Ban Bikes Now!

  8. Do you really know San Jose! Blossom Hill/Winfield is nowhere near Edenvale nor Is Almaden/Cherry!
    Call it Almaden but don’t call it Edenvale. Give Sergio a call if you don’t know where district 2 is in San Jose! Otherwise flawed studies/data gives certain neighborhoods a bad rap and inflates numbers so as to grab media attention. Also Phil Matier from KCBS had a good commentary last week on PED/Bike accidents and vehicals. Maybe it is time for a pedestrian responsibilty law or just some common sense. Wear a helmet when biking and look both ways when you cross the street especially when you are jaywalking while texting!

  9. All traffic should be separated as is done in other countries such as China and the Netherlands. There solid barriers segregate cars, bicycles and pedestrians. Having a lane for bicycles a few feet from cars travelling at 35 to 50 mph is a recipe for disaster. Where are scooters supposed to be? On the sidewalks? In the street?
    In many places, cars are driven in the bicycle lanes to make right turns.
    The new green markers, bus lanes and confusing parking situation in near City Hall San Jose are a deterrent to visitors.
    Maybe pave lanes along the rail tracks if the railroad allows it.

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