As the intersection of Illinois Street and US-63 in Kirksville gains a reputation as the most dangerous intersection in town, officials are working to determine what is happening and find the best way to respond.
The intersection, located near the NEMO Fairgrounds, saw a noticeable increase in accidents in 2016. Some residents took note, as did the Kirksville Police Department and the Missouri Department of Transportation — MODOT. KPD has analyzed data and hypothesized what could be the cause of an uptick in accidents not only at the Illinois Street intersection, but also along the entire Kirksville stretch of US-63, sometimes called the “alternate route.” Additional police patrols have been present along the five-year-old stretch of highway, which has seen a slight decrease in accidents over the past weeks.
Kirksville Police Chief Jim Hughes said there were some concerns from the public when the road was first built and until recently, there had been no data to support or reject the claim that the road was abnormally dangerous. Hughes said the full accident data from all five years of the road’s existence had not been analyzed, but the Department noticed more accidents than usual on the alternate route in late 2015 and 2016. KPD has read and analyzed accident reports in an effort to determine a cause of the increase, and information is being shared with MODOT. Preliminary analysis done by Hughes shows of the 29 accidents reported on US-63 in 2016, only 16 were related to intersections. This includes eight accidents at Illinois Street, six and Shepherd Avenue, and one accident at both Benton Way and Highway P.
Hughes also noted while the intersection at Illinois has gained the title of “most dangerous intersection” — and indeed has the highest number of accidents — the Shepherd intersection has a higher rate of injury accidents at five out of six as compared to three out of eight at Illinois. There has been increased police patrol on the alternate route, but Hughes said it is not possible now — and might never be possible — to know if the extra patrol makes a significant difference. Increased patrol, Hughes explained, is not only for the purpose of more enforcement, but so officers can be on the lookout for factors that might be making the highway more accident-prone.
“We’re trying to see if we can identify some kind of objective reason why we see what we believe is an increase in the accidents,” Hughes said. “But, as we know, this could be just a bad run of luck, this could just be an anomaly.
KPD has been collaborating with MODOT to identify a problem and, if necessary, find a solution. Hughes asked the police department for input, and said he is open to input from the public. A number of theories have been proposed, including one plausible theory from a member of the public. For the time being, Hughes says caution is key on the roadway.
“It’s just personal responsibility, just being more aware. I think, certainly, that would help” Hughes said.