Crashes are common on S.R. 224
May 17, 2006
S.R. 224 in the Snyderville Basin might be the most hazardous road in Summit County, drivers have long claimed. Now statistics seem to confirm their suspicions.
The number of traffic collisions that have occurred on the state highway since 2002 is roughly twice what the Utah Department of Transportation expected, Summit County Engineer Derrick Radke said.
"I don’t ever say a road is necessarily unsafe, people drive it unsafe," Radke said during a telephone interview Thursday.
From 2002 to 2004, there were 598 traffic accidents along a roughly five-mile stretch of S.R. 224 between Interstate 80 and the Park City limits, Summit County Public Works Administrator Kevin Callahan said.
"It does have a high accident rate," Callahan said about the stretch of the highway.
Two people were killed and roughly 20 were seriously injured during the period, he added.
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"We knew that we had a high rate of accidents, but the accident rate was higher than it was expected to be," said Callahan, who recently filed an open-records request seeking the statistics from UDOT. "It’s very scary."
About a third of the accidents occurred near Landmark Drive and Ute Boulevard at Kimball Junction, he said, adding, "we have two or three areas where we have major clusters of accidents."
Other trouble spots are the intersections of S.R. 224 with Silver Springs Drive and Canyons Resort Drive, Callahan said.
"As we improve our signalization, we should improve that safety significantly," he said.
Work was scheduled to begin last week on a new traffic signal at Cutter Lane and Bobsled Boulevard and a new stoplight will be installed near the entrance of ParkWest Village when Canyons Resort Drive is realigned later this year, Radke said.
"The biggest part of it is trying to control access," Callahan said. "I think it’s getting safer and safer."
Meanwhile, some motorists will continue to grit their teeth and clutch their steering wheels while driving on S.R. 224 during rush hour.
"At least 50 percent of the time, when I pull into the parking lot at work, I’m worked up just frustrated at the drivers," said Salt Lake resident Katie Coletti, who works at a property-management company in Park City.
The quality of her Snyderville Basin commute is "hit and miss," the 32-year-old said.
"I think you either get the people who are speeding, or following too close behind the people who aren’t even going the speed limit," Coletti said.
Slower motorists should stay on the right side of the road, said Basin commuter Kelley Eberhardt, who is 31 years old.
"I do it every day, twice a day," Eberhardt said about the commute into Park City from her home near Kimball Junction. "I think it could be better. People need to be courteous drivers."
Though motorists routinely speed along S.R. 224, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds blames tailgaters for causing many collisions on the road.
"Those accidents have been caused by people following too closely," Edmunds said. "But speed always determines the severity of the accident."
Traffic engineers and law enforcement, however, are trying to make the highway safer, the sheriff said.
The speed limit on the road ranges from 45 to 55 mph.
"Safety begins and ends with people who are driving vehicles," Edmunds said. "They are the ones who are ultimately responsible."
Inclement weather and lots of drivers from outside of Utah also contribute to the rate of crashes, he said, adding, "do you want to be a destination resort community or do you want to have very few traffic issues?"
"There are a variety of factors that are leading to more collisions on 224," Edmunds said. "[Speed] is not the sole issue."
Most of the crashes on the highway are fender-benders that result only in property damage, Callahan said.
But concrete medians UDOT intends to install on S.R. 224 this year near Silver Springs and The Canyons could reduce the number of head-on crashes in the Basin, Radke said, adding that 18-inch barriers will be installed in the center of the road.
"There have been a lot of accidents," Radke said. "Anytime we can improve road safety, it helps us all, especially when you have fatalities."
However, UDOT Director of Traffic and Safety Robert Hull says S.R. 224 is not unsafe.
"It is by all practical purposes a city street. We need to be careful and not look at the roadway as a nice mountain road — it isn’t," Hull said during a telephone interview Friday. "The commercial aspects are big draws for people and there is a lot of housing going in."
And more crashes are expected on roads with lots of intersections, he said.
"It’s expected that there would be a higher number of crashes at an intersection than there are on a plain stretch of road — because that’s where your conflict points are," Hull said. "There may be a high number of crashes [on S.R. 224] but what type of crashes are they? Are they rear-end type crashes or are they more severe, right-angle crashes?"
Statistics from the state show roughly 75 percent of the accidents on S.R. 224 during the three-year span involved "one vehicle going straight and another turning in front of it," Callahan said.
"We provided the basic information, types of crashes, number of crashes, but we did not do an analysis for the rates," Hull said about the statistics sent to Summit County. "There are different ways to look at that information."