Cars make their way through the congested Orchard Lake and 14 Mile roads roundabout, considered to be the third most dangerous intersection in Michigan.

Cars make their way through the congested Orchard Lake and 14 Mile roads roundabout, considered to be the third most dangerous intersection in Michigan.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Orchard Lake, 14 Mile intersection named 3rd most dangerous in state

Roundabout ranks in top 5 for 3rd consecutive year

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published July 21, 2020


FARMINGTON HILLS — Farmington Hills-based auto law firm Michigan Auto Law’s annual 20 most dangerous intersections in Michigan list is out, and for the third consecutive year Orchard Lake and 14 Mile roads, shared by Farmington Hills and West Bloomfield, has ranked in the top five of that list.

The intersection ranked third based on data from 2019. The intersection was also ranked third in 2018, and it ranked fourth in 2017.

“It’s a very busy intersection. I think the good part that people can take away from it, however, is that there’s a large number of crashes, but relatively smaller number of injuries coming from those crashes, and that would be a testament to the city of Farmington Hills for making it into a roundabout,” Michigan Auto Law attorney Brandon Hewitt said.

The rankings are formulated from raw data on crashes and injuries taken from the state of Michigan and the Michigan State Police.

According to the Michigan Auto Law website, the intersection ranks third due to a 24% increase in car crashes from 2018 to 2019, as well as a higher-than-normal — compared to other roundabouts  — number of reported injuries, 22, in 2019.

In 2018, the Orchard Lake and 14 Mile roads intersection had 178 crashes and 22 injuries. A total of 144 crashes and 24 injuries were reported for 2017.

Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King said he doesn’t believe the intersection poses any greater danger than others in the municipality. Hewitt said that while the intersection does have a large number of crashes, the number of injuries compared to other intersections on the 2019 list isn’t as high.

“If we were to resort the data based on injury at an intersection, that intersection would probably rank a little bit lower.”

King said a problem with the intersection is that it’s shared between Farmington Hills and West Bloomfield.

According to Farmington Hills Police Department records, the intersection only netted 49 crashes and zero fatalities in 2019, though King said there was one incapacitating crash at the intersection last year. The report stated 54 crashes and 49 crashes, in 2018 and 2017, respectively, with zero fatalities.

An early morning May 8 crash last year, just north of the intersection, left two people, a 36-year-old Waterford Township man and a 24-year-old Warren woman, dead after the driver fled a police pursuit and struck a traffic light pole at high speeds.

Farmington Hills police attempted to stop the vehicle that morning for a traffic violation near 13 Mile Road, but the driver fled. King said his department “terminated the chase well before the accident” in West Bloomfield.

There is a benefit the Orchard Lake and 14 Mile roads intersection has over traditional T-shaped intersections, Hewitt said.

“We think roundabouts overall are safer. If the choice is between a roundabout and a traditional intersection, the roundabout is going to be the safer option… (but) people’s lack of familiarity with how to operate at a roundabout can cause an increase in crashes,” he said, adding that roundabout crashes are more likely to be low-impact, fender bender-type crashes, resulting in fewer injuries. 

According to the report, Michigan is seeing a trend of more crashes, yet fewer injuries, across the state. The report states, however, that the number of fatalities from accidents increased from 2018 to 2019.

“With safer vehicles on the road, they’re going to cut down on some of the more serious injuries, but high-impact, fatal car crashes are going to be fatal almost regardless of technology or what you can do,” Hewitt said. “Perhaps fatal crashes can be attributed to people feeling more comfortable and safer in their vehicles, making them feel more protected than they are. Perhaps people are driving at faster speeds than they would have in the past, contributing to fatal accidents.”

With fewer drivers on the road during the COVID-19 pandemic, people may perceive roadways to be safer, though people driving at higher speeds the past five months has led to a larger number of fatalities and hospitalizations, he said.

When asked about enhancing safety at the intersection, Hewitt offered some suggestions, but he said that, “at the end of the day, it’s such a busy intersection, there might not be much more they can do there.”

King agreed.

“Have as much patience as possible when entering (a roundabout) and trying to navigate them: That would be a big benefit, but there’s really nothing design-wise, engineering-wise, or structure-wise that I can see that would improve them.”