Fender-benders on the riseDickinson is becoming famous for economic growth, but that isn’t the only thing that is growing. Increased traffic is causing an increase of accidents, officials said.
By: April Baumgarten, The Dickinson Press
Dickinson is becoming famous for economic growth, but that isn’t the only thing that is growing. Increased traffic is causing an increase of accidents, officials said.
“It’s the population growth,” Dickinson Police Department Capt. Joseph Cianni. “It’s the amount of traffic on the roadways. It’s a number of things.”
In Dickinson this year, 886 accidents have been reported, according to police records, compared to 642 accidents reported at this time last year. Cianni said a majority of accidents are caused by a traffic violation and by distracted driving.
Jay Wanner, manager of Jay R’s Auto Body and Sandblasting in Dickinson, said he has also seen an increase in repairs for accidents.
“It’s just overwhelming in our area,” Wanner said. “There is just a surplus of vehicles. That’s what happens.”
North Dakota Motor Carriers Association Executive Vice President Thomas Balzer said an increase in traffic gives more opportunities for accidents. He added the roads may not be able to handle the heavy traffic.
“One of the challenges we have in western North Dakota is the road system was originally designed as farm-to-market roads,” Balzer said. “Now we are putting this heavy road traffic there.”
Balzer said the North Dakota Department of Transportation is trying to make repairs and improvements to roads, but it is hard to keep up with the demand.
“The increase of traffic has come on so quickly, and with construction inflation it is hard to make that money stretch,” he said.
Balzer said studies have shown more than 75 percent of accidents involving semis were caused by a passenger-vehicle error. Wanner said there was definitely truth to this statistic.
“In our opinion, we think truck drivers are genuinely safe,” Wanner said. “Usually it was the car that pulled out in front of (the truck) or crossed into their lane.”
Distracted driving contributed to 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes in a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study. Balzer said distracted driving is a concern in North Dakota.
“One issue we deal with across the board is distracted driving,” Balzer said. “Whether it be texting, cell phones or food, (people) need to avoid distractions as much as they can.”
Balzer said motorists should stay out of the blind spots of semis. Drivers should also give themselves extra time to reach their destination.
“With the higher volume of traffic there is going to be more congestion and slower moving traffic,” he said.
Cianni added drivers need to be cautious and use defensive driving skills.
“Defensive driving is the key to avoiding any accident and foreseeing the possibilities of what could happen,” Cianni said.