Signs near 18 1/2 Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue instruct drivers on how to navigate the roundabout there.

Signs near 18 1/2 Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue instruct drivers on how to navigate the roundabout there.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Sterling roundabout again tops ‘dangerous’ intersection list

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 26, 2021

Advertisement

STERLING HEIGHTS — History is cyclical for Sterling Heights’ biggest roundabout.

In late June, the Michigan Auto Law firm revealed its annual list of what it defines as Michigan’s 20 most dangerous intersections for 2020, and the roundabout at 18 1/2 Mile Road and Van Dyke once again took first place.

The law firm said its ranking list comes from police auto crash reports in 2020. The Van Dyke roundabout had 131 reported crashes and eight injuries last year. That said, the roundabout reportedly drew less trouble than it did in 2019, when it ranked No. 1 due to having 229 reported crashes and 14 injuries, according to the law firm.

On June 29, Michigan Auto Law President Steven Gursten also released a list of the top 10 “most dangerous intersections” specific to Macomb County. The Van Dyke roundabout topped that list, too; Metropolitan Parkway and Van Dyke took fifth, and the Hall and Schoenherr intersection took sixth.

The rankings count any crash within 250 feet of an intersection or roundabout.

“Even with a 43% reduction in crashes from 229 in 2019 to 131 total crashes in 2020, this area still had more total car crashes than any other intersection in Michigan,” Gursten wrote about the Van Dyke roundabout on the law firm’s blog. “Thankfully, the number of injuries decreased, from 14 in 2019 to just eight in 2020.”

Elsewhere on the law firm’s website, it says the roundabout’s crash count “remains a concern given that this intersection has been a roundabout for well over ten years and local drivers are familiar with it.”

Gary Bubar, a traffic safety public affairs specialist from AAA Michigan, said roundabouts are set up to keep traffic flowing smoothly because drivers don’t need to stop unless they have to yield to circulating traffic. At the same time, he said, the roundabout design narrows its entrances, creating an optical illusion that forces drivers’ brains to slow down.

“As you move through it, any (crash) impact you have is going to be less than you would have had (otherwise), as you don’t have those high-speed, broadside collisions. You slowed down to get into the roundabout,” he said.

Bubar said roundabouts offer a tradeoff in that, while they may not always lower the number of crashes, they limit crash severity. He listed a few things drivers should do in order to maximize their safety while driving in one.

“As you come into a roundabout, pay attention to the signage,” Bubar said. “It will tell you what lane to be in depending on where you want to go. ... Make sure you’re in the correct lane. Again, the signs will guide you there.

“If there is traffic in the roundabout, it’s your responsibility to yield to that traffic. The same is true of pedestrians, or I guess you might call them nonmotorized users. You have to yield to them, too.”

One mistake some drivers make is not signaling their intentions while circling the roundabout, Bubar said. Cars planning to make a right turn at the roundabout intersection should turn on the right blinker; likewise, people wanting to turn left should have their left turn signal on, he said.

“It can be confusing, but it’s all about communication and preparation,” he said.


Crash stats beyond the roundabout
Sterling Heights took two other spots in Michigan Auto Law’s top 20 Michigan list: 17th place for Metropolitan Parkway and Van Dyke with 68 crashes and eight injuries, and 18th place for Hall and Schoenherr roads with 67 crashes and 17 injuries.

Michigan Auto Law said less traffic on the roads due to COVID-19 also tended to mean fewer crashes. Based on Michigan State Police data, crashes overall declined by 21.9% compared to 2019, and crash-related injuries declined 18.6%.

However, the firm said traffic-related deaths rose to 1,084 in 2020. In addition, Gursten pointed out that deaths among bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians also rose that year.

“Our goal is driver safety,” Gursten said in a statement. “We give drivers this information so they can plan alternative routes if possible and to be aware of the extra caution needed when driving in these areas.”

Other nearby intersections on the top 20 Michigan list outside of Sterling Heights include the second-place 11 Mile Road/Interstate 696 and Van Dyke in Warren, with 124 crashes and 33 injuries; the eighth-place 12 Mile Road and I-94 in Roseville, with 88 crashes and 31 injuries; and the 20th-place Hall and Romeo Plank roads in Clinton Township, with 64 crashes and 24 injuries.

Find out more about Michigan Auto Law by visiting www.michiganautolaw.com. Learn more about AAA Michigan by visiting www.michigan.aaa.com.

Advertisement