Annual Longmont traffic report shows uptick in fatal crashes

Ken Pratt and Main Street intersection sees most traffic

Vehicles travel through the intersection of Ken Pratt Boulevard and South Main Street earlier this month. A crash report compiled by Longmont city staff shows the intersection sees the most traffic and of any in the city, and the most crashes for intersections with signals that are traveled by more than 25,000 vehicles in a day. However, none of the crashes at the intersection in 2019 were fatal. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Vehicles travel through the intersection of Ken Pratt Boulevard and South Main Street earlier this month. A crash report compiled by Longmont city staff shows the intersection sees the most traffic and of any in the city, and the most crashes for intersections with signals that are traveled by more than 25,000 vehicles in a day. However, none of the crashes at the intersection in 2019 were fatal. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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While Longmont chiropractor Lou Cavallo said he hears multiple crashes outside his office at Francis Street and Mountain View Avenue a year, he specifically remembers one. In March, he brought one of his office chairs out to the intersection after a crash that left a woman bleeding and unable to stand.

“I estimate I see probably two big (crashes) every three to four months,” Cavallo wrote in an email. “If I am with a patient, you will hear screeching tires and the smash.”

An annual report compiled by Longmont’s Traffic Engineering department shows fatal crashes are on the rise, but intersections that saw the most crashes did not have any deadly wrecks in 2019.

For example, Cavallo is correct in predicting his office is at one of the city’s busiest intersections, but none of the 35 crashes that happened there in 2019 were fatal. Francis Street and Mountain View Avenue was determined the second busiest intersection for intersections with traffic signals that see more than 25,000 vehicles a day, data shows. An average of 16,400 vehicles pass through the intersection each day.

Longmont’s streets saw 12 fatal crashes last year according to the report, but none of them happened at any of the intersections with the highest number of crashes for their type. The number of crashes also increased year over year, with six fatal crashes reported in 2018. There were eight in 2017 and two in 2016, data shows.

Of last year’s fatal crashes, two involved bicycles, three involved pedestrians and one involved a motorcycle — all of which are deemed vulnerable road users.

Longmont Police Deputy Chief Jeff Satur said in general, officials in 2019 saw drivers involved in fatal crashes were following too closely, speeding or making left turns while disregarding the traffic. He said there were several pedestrians and a bicyclist who were fatally hit who had either marijuana or alcohol in their system while improperly crossing the street in front of traffic. Of the 12 fatal crashes, one was medical related.

“With the exception of the medical issue, all of these crashes could have been prevented for several reasons,” Satur said.

Dangerous intersections

There were 2,261 crashes in Longmont in 2019, the report found, an increase from 2,148 total crashes in 2018. While the number of crashes has increased, the number of crashes per 1,000 people has remained the same at 2.5.

High-crash locations were determined through compiling all reported crashes from 2015 to 2019. Data is separated into intersection-related crashes and crashes not related to intersections. Intersection-related crashes are further divided according to whether there was a traffic light at the intersection and the number of cars that pass through the intersection each day. The “composite crash index” was then calculated based on the frequency of crashes, the rate of crashes and the weighted crash rate, or the crash rate weighted by crash severity.

About 60% of all crashes in Longmont occurred at intersections, and about 40% of all crashes occurred at signalized intersections, according to the report.

The report revealed the intersection of Ken Pratt Boulevard and Main Street was the busiest and most dangerous intersection in Longmont. More than 70,000 vehicles travel through it each day, and there were 290 crashes in the five-year period. While none of the crashes were fatal, 87 included some form of injury, while 203 only involved property damage.

In the same category, the intersection of Ken Pratt Boulevard and Hover Street is the second busiest, but the most dangerous. Data shows 59,000 vehicles pass through the intersection each day, and there were 199 crashes in 2019, none of which were fatal.

“(Colo.) 119 and Hover are the main road for everyone coming in to work from different cities and out to work to another city,” Longmont resident Duy Luong said, adding the intersection sees its fair share of rush hour traffic.

The intersection of Ninth Avenue and Francis Street was the busiest intersection in the category measuring intersections with traffic signals that see less than 25,000 vehicles per day. Data shows 17,700 vehicles use the intersection each day, and there have been 57 crashes between 2015 and 2019, none of which were fatal.

In the category measuring intersections without traffic signals that see more than 12,000 vehicles per day, the intersection of Grand Avenue and Main Street is the busiest — seeing 32,000 vehicles per day on average. In the five-year time period, there have been 64 crashes there, data shows, none of which were fatal.

For intersections that are not signaled that see between 3,000 and 11,999 vehicles a day, Alpine Street and Mountain View Avenue is the most trafficked, seeing an average of 9,200 vehicles a day with 32 crashes in the five years, none of which were fatal.

The intersection of Grand Avenue and Main Street saw the most crashes in 2019 for intersections without signals that are traveled by more than 12,000 vehicles. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Types of crashes

Rear-end crashes are the most frequent type of crash in Longmont, though front-to-side crashes result in the most severe crashes, the report states.

In 2019, there were 735 front-to-rear crashes and 411 front-to-side crashes. Of the front-to-rear crashes, 35 involved injury, while 66 of the front-to-side crashes did. There were 49 bicycle collisions, 27 of which involved injury, and 29 pedestrian collisions, 19 of which involved injury, data shows.

There were 112 crashes in which the driver was driving under the influence in 2019 and 43 medical, sleeping driver or fatigue-related crashes in 2019. DUI crashes have continually increased since 2013, data shows, while medical, sleeping driver or fatigue-related crashes have decreased since 2016.

Between 2015 and 2019, 42% of alcohol and drug impairment crashes resulted in an injury or possible injury, while 58% of crashes resulted in no injury. In the same time frame, men were cited in 68% of DUI crashes and women were cited in 28%, while 4% of crashes had reports that did not document the sex of the driver.

Between 2015 and 2019, 34% of fatigue-related crashes resulted in injury or possible injury, and 66% did not result in injury. In the time frame, 65% of drivers with observed sleepiness were male, 30% were female and 5% of reports for those kinds of crashes did not specify.

Looking ahead

Transportation Engineering Administrator Tyler Stamey said the best use of the report is to help identify intersections or locations that may need to be changed.

“Each high crash location warrants a closer look to determine cause and potential remedies,” he said.

High crash intersections like the intersections of Ken Pratt Boulevard and Hover Street and Hover Street and Nelson Road may be improved through a future capital project, Stamey said. There are also standalone capital projects that can come from the study, like the new traffic signal installed at Mountain View Avenue and Alpine Street that was announced completed in September.

High-crash locations may also be corrected with minor improvements — such as adding a left turn arrow to an existing signal, improving signs or sign visibility or restricting access.

The city used data from last year’s report to apply for — and receive — a Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program grant for $805,860 for traffic signal modifications at 17 high-crash intersections, Stamey said.

Stamey said Longmont is working with Boulder County, Colorado Department of Transportation and Regional Transportation District to improve the Colo. 119 corridor in general.

Earlier this year, the city submitted an application for a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant to provide funding for improvements identified in the Southwest Longmont Traffic Operations study at the intersection of Colo. 119 and Hover Street, Stamey said. The city did not receive the grant this funding cycle, but it plans to reapply in the future.

Stamey did note the city received a grant funding improvements at Ken Pratt Boulevard and Sunset Street. According to the crash report, next year staff plan to continue design efforts to create dedicated north and southbound left turn lanes at the intersection and add bike lanes on Sunset Street.

Also in 2021, staff plan to add street bike lanes and a center left turn lane on Ninth Street, as well as a dedicated left turn lane at the intersection of Ninth and Francis streets.

Traffic passes through the intersection of Francis and Ninth streets, which a city traffic report showed had the highest number of crashes for an intersection with a signal that sees less than 25,000 vehicles in a day. Staff plan to add a dedicated left turn lane at the intersection in 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)