By: Allan M. Siegel
Commuters in this area know all too well how bad rush hour can be. A study
by Texas A&M University showed that Washingtonians placed first on
the list of the Nation's worst commutes by spending an average, per
driver, of 67 hours stuck in traffic in 2012. So amid all of this gridlock,
where is the most dangerous section of the beltway?
It is in Maryland, between Georgia Avenue and Rockville Pike. The stretch is known by many as "the roller coaster" because
it winds and curves through the hills and valleys of Sligo Creek and Rock
Creek. The roadway was originally built in the 1950's and was designed
for much lower travel speeds. The current speed limit is 55 mph, but of
course when traffic is lighter, the average speed of most drivers is closer
to 65 or 70 mph.
This stretch of the Beltway is also traveled by nearly a quarter million
vehicles each day. The Maryland State Highway Administration estimates
an average of 260 crashes per year. It also recorded a fatal crash each
year for the past five years. It is difficult to get an accurate number
of total crashes, however, because many of the smaller fender benders
or spinouts are not reported to the police. Therefore, the true number
of crashes is most likely much higher than recorded data shows.
On this stretch of the road, its "roller coaster" design makes
it unsafe when traffic is lighter, and the sheer volume it handles makes
it unsafe when traffic is at a standstill, which results in the most dangerous
section of the beltway. The Maryland State Highway Administration states
that there are no current plans to change the roadway's design or
its speed limit, though yellow caution signs do mark the most hazardous curves.
Based on recent historical trends, there is practically a 100% chance that
there will be a fatal crash on this stretch of roadway in 2014. With knowledge
of this glaring data, the State of Maryland should step up to protect
its citizens by researching safety measures, such as widening the roadway
or heightening the police presence in the area to encourage safer driving.