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Archive for Sunday, January 7, 2007

Records detail causes of accidents

January 7, 2007

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— When it comes to the percentage of accidents caused by drivers running a red light or ignoring traffic signs, Sedgwick County leads the state, according to Kansas Department of Transportation records.

But it's Johnson County that leads the state when it comes to accidents caused by tailgating, with Sedgwick County coming in second, transportation records show.

Statewide, the records show that inattention is by far the most common cause of accidents. It was listed on 38 percent of all accident reports.

Failing to yield the right of way and speeding were second and third on the list.

According to the Transportation Department's traffic accident database, which has information on more than 370,000 crashes that occurred on state roads from 2001 through 2005, many counties in Kansas have a disproportionate number of accidents attributed to one of more factors.

For example, drivers in Lane County in western Kansas had the highest percentage of alcohol-related crashes, while drivers in Chase County had the highest percentage of accidents caused by speeding.

Reasons for differences among counties can vary.

Bob House, a research analyst for the Kansas Department of Transportation, wasn't surprised that Sedgwick County led the state in accidents caused by drivers disregarding signs or signals.

"In urban counties you're obviously going to have more stop signs and signals than you will in Wichita County out on the western border."

Gove and Trego counties, with some of the most desolate stretches of Interstate 70, had the greatest percentage of accidents caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

However, the Transportation Department records also show that some law enforcement agencies don't always list contributing factors on accident reports, while others may list several.

In northwest Kansas' Graham County, for example, just 43 of the 430 accidents that occurred from 2001 through 2005 listed any contributing factors.

In Sedgwick County, which had 53,000 accidents, investigators listed more than 73,000 factors.

Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman John Eichkorn said some smaller law enforcement agencies may not have the time or training to thoroughly investigate accidents.

"Working a crash anymore is not as simple as it used to be," he said. "We're hungry for information. We want to know as much as possible about crashes."

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