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Bensalem Home to Nation’s Most Dangerous Intersection? Not So Fast Say Officials

Local and state officials say a TIME magazine report's data just doesn't add up

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An intersection in Bucks County was named the most dangerous intersection in America by TIME Magazine. (Published Friday, Aug 29, 2014)

    The intersection of Knights and Street Roads in Bensalem, Pennsylvania is the most dangerous intersection in the United States according to a report by TIME magazine.

    But township and state officials believe the declaration is simply not true.

    On Thursday, TIME published an analysis of federal traffic fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The magazine said it took GPS coordinates, looked for deadly crashes that happened within 150 feet of each other and then narrowed those down to ones that were at road crossings.

    Their report found that seven fatal crashes happened at Knights and Street Roads over the past 10 years.

    One of those deadly crashes took place in June 2008 when a black Pontiac Firebird ran down two men crossing Street Road before speeding off. NBC10 reported at that time that a man died and the other was critically hurt.

    In addition to the intersection, the magazine also looked at crashes for a one-mile stretch of Street Road. Those numbers are even more alarming. TIME reported 144 crashes resulting in 170 injuries or deaths took place over a two year period ending in 2008, when a state audit of the road was conducted.

    This led TIME to declare the intersection the most dangerous in the United States.

    Despite the numbers, Bensalem Township Public Safety Director Fred Harran says he’s not buying the grim distinction.

    “I certainly don’t think this is the most ‘dangerous’ intersection. I find that extremely hard to believe,” Bensalem Public Safety Director Fred Harran tells NBC10. “We’re number one in a lot of areas, but this is not one of them.”

    The roadways are each four lanes, plus turning lanes, and meet on an angle. They also have pedestrian crosswalks, but Harran says they’re not always used.

    “We do have a lot of problems where people are too lazy to cross at the intersection’s crosswalk and they cross in the middle of the roadway,” he said citing this as a reason for the higher number of injuries along the roads.

    Just today, SkyForce10 caught a woman veering out of the crosswalk as she walked through the intersection.

    The area is also very congested with traffic traveling north from the Franklin Mills Mall, just a mile away, and east and west from both Interstate 95 and U.S. 1. Several restaurant chains, big box stores and a gas station bound the intersection as well.

    Harran says the opening of Parx Casino, in 2006, has also caused traffic to skyrocket -- specifically on Street Road. The intersection sits about a mile east of the casino’s entrance.

    Bensalem Police increased enforcement in the area over the past few years, but Harran says they can’t stop everyone from jaywalking.

    Harran also believes the inclusion of the mile-long Street Road crash data in the TIME report amounts to comparing apples to oranges.

    Street Road is a state highway for its full length, while Knights Road is state-controlled from the Philadelphia county line to the intersection, which sees 54,000 vehicles a day travel through it. Both are policed by Bensalem Township.

    PennDOT spokesman Eugene Blaum says the agency doesn't agree with TIME's report either.

    "It’s misleading because these crashes each have their own specific set of circumstances," he said.

    PennDOT data that showed six people, not seven, were killed at the intersection over the 10 year period.

    Worse, Blaum said, was the reporting on the Street Road crashes. According to PennDOT, of the 170 injuries or deaths TIME reported, three were fatalities. He added that 85 of the injuries had either an unknown severity or number of injuries.

    The time period cited was also incorrect, Blaum said. He said the crashes happened over a three year span, not two.

    More recently, Blaum says there were three fatal crashes over the past five years along that part of Street Road. There were no fatalities in 2010, 2012 or 2013, according to the PennDOT data.

    Blaum says officials feel that one death is too many and that improvements to the intersection and roads have and continue to be made.

    Two upcoming projects -- one starting in October and another going out for bid later in the year -- will resurface six miles of Street Road from I-95 to Buselton Pike, which includes the Knights Road intersection. Along with the resurfacing will come new curb reflectors and rumble strips, Blaum said.

    The second project will add new traffic signaling systems that track traffic flow in real-time and can change signals to cut back on aggressive driving, according to Blaum. New pedestrian countdown timers will also be added.

    NBC10 reached out to NHTSA to inquire about the data used in the TIME report. A spokesperson said they’re not sure how the analysis was conducted and couldn't comment.

    A TIME spokesperson also did not have comment.


    Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.