VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 31   |  AUGUST 3 - 9, 2011


Has the time come for a traffic signal at School House Road?

CAVE CREEK – The stop signs at the intersection of Cave Creek Road and School House roads have been home to the “California roll,” the name for braking and slowing but never coming to a complete stop, for several years.

It’s not unusual to see a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputy laying in wait just south of Cave Creek Road to not only catch violators, but to serve as a deterrent.

Gary Rector, a 31-year Cave Creek resident, wrote to Town Manager Usama Abujbarah and Town Engineer Wayne Anderson a few weeks ago expressing the need to improve traffic control at the intersection.

Rector followed up his initial letter with what he called “considerable and statistically valid hard data to support the common opinion that this is a dangerous intersection.”

At around 9:40 a.m. on July 15, Rector’s wife ended up the victim of a hit and run accident at the intersection when an eastbound older model, tan or gold, full-size pickup truck ran the stop sign and hit her vehicle as she was turning left from School House Road to eastbound Cave Creek Road.

Witnesses stated the truck was moving too fast to get a license number with one person estimating the driver was going “about 90” in the 30 MPH zone.

Stating, “I’m not a traffic engineer, but I am a mathematician,” Rector recapped the data he collected at the intersection between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Saturday, July 16, the day after his wife’s accident, through Friday, July 22.

He spent 658 minutes collecting data at the intersection and observed 407 failures to stop, which equated to a raw average of 0.62 failures to stop per minute, with a median time of one minute between events.

Rector considered 32 of those failures to stop high-speed events.

His report did not include California rolls, nor did it take into account the numerous drivers who had to slam on their brakes at the last minute in order to stop.

While Rector noted there were “lots of near misses,” his data only represented the numbers of vehicles that failed to come to a stop at the intersection.

Failures were comprised of 364 cars and trucks; 16 commercial and government vehicles, including a town of Cave Creek vehicle; one fuel truck; 24 bicycles; 9 motorcycles and 15 vehicles towing trailers.

His data reflects the largest number (176) of offenders were headed west, with the next largest group (80) turning from west to north, followed by 72 headed east.

Rector found the time between stop sign-running events to be the most troublesome, pointing out the greatest period of time between events during his 11 hours of monitoring the intersection was only 10 minutes, while over 60 percent occurred within two minutes of another violation.

Half of the violations occurred within one minute of another incident, many within only two or three seconds of one another.

While the town estimates it could cost close to $1 million, including engin-eering studies, permits and equipment costs, to install a traffic signal at the intersection, Rector had a couple of suggestions for coming up with the cash or some alternatives.

Rector said perhaps the revenue could come from Walmart taxes, or, he stated, if only half the violators were given tickets and fined $100, it could easily total $1 million over a year’s time.

However, what Rector may not realize is the town doesn’t actually get to keep the vast majority of the revenue it collects in fines from traffic violations and the little it does get to keep goes toward funding the town’s court operations.

Short of installing a traffic signal, Rector suggested bigger signs and/or taller posts, new paint at the intersection, additional “dots” in the approaching lanes, speed bumps, or additional signs and flags.

While recommending public information and focused law enforcement as a partial remedy, Rector concluded, “Certainly, some professional engineering and traffic studies are warranted,” and asked, “What will you do to improve this intersection to help prevent a tragic accident?”

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