In its 2016 annual report, the Kent Police Department documented 1,015 total accident complaints, up 200 from 2014. Of those, 114 involved at least one injury.
These statistics ring all too true for Steve Pavliga, a senior psychology major.
Last year, Pavliga drove through the intersection of Graham Road and Route 43 on a green light when another car ran a red light and collided with Pavliga’s vehicle.
“With 43, you have a bunch of people turning in a bunch of different directions, and then they end up at that intersection,” Pavliga said. “It’s pretty easy to be caught off guard.”
Some Kent streets are more dangerous than others. In a survey of high-crash intersections in Northeast Ohio, the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study found the intersection of Summit Street and South Lincoln Street to be the most dangerous using a grading scale that averages daily traffic, the number of accidents and accident severity.
The second-most dangerous is the intersection of East Main Street and Lincoln Street, and the intersection of North Mantua Street and Fairchild Avenue.
Kent State alumna Keisha Burley experienced the risks of driving through the intersection of East Main Street and Lincoln Street firsthand. In 2016, Burley stopped at a red light, but the car behind her didn’t. The car pushed Burley into the car in front of her, leading to a three-car collision.
“It shocked me, honestly,” Burley said. “I just don’t think (the other driver) was paying attention.”
These statistics don’t surprise Michael Lewis, the administrative lieutenant for the City of Kent police.
“I think that anybody who’s trying to go down East Main street right now, they’re delayed by so many turns that are going left onto Lincoln Street from East Main Street,” Lewis said. “It’s a very popular through street.”
Burley agreed with Lewis’ assessment.
“That intersection is horrendous,” Burely said. “The traffic is just so bad because the green light is so short. It’s always so backed up and people are swerving into other lines. It’s just always a mess.”
The Summit and Lincoln intersection is also dangerous because of the limited visibility for cars coming up the hill on Summit. While a “blind” left turn may be the cause of some traffic incidents at this intersection, Lewis said road structure is not always the causal factor.
“The most common violation is probably lack of attention,” Lewis said. “They’re distracted by their cell phones, or their car stereo, focusing on something other than what they should be, which is their driving.”
Lewis said while police officers do what they can to enforce safe driving, such as using speed radars and maintaining an active presence on the roads, their reach is constrained by current Ohio laws. Right now, officers can only cite someone for texting while driving or not wearing their seat belt if the driver is violating a ticketable offense, even though distracted driving remains a prominent problem behind the wheel.
“Anyone can take a look driving around the city or anywhere that you travel on a regular basis and look at the number of drivers who are focused on their cell phones while they’re driving,” Lewis said. “It’s scary.”
Lewis said accident rates caused by distracted driving won’t lessen until changes are made at the legislative level, making it illegal to text while on the road.
Emma Keating is a staff writer. Contact her at [email protected]