Forty-six people were injured in collisions on State Route 347 between Maricopa and Interstate 10 in 2014. One person died.
Almost every serious crash on SR 347 reignites debate about the roadway and driving habits.
“Typically, driver behavior in rural areas is the No. 1 cause of serious crashes,” said Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) spokesman Dustin Krugel.
Statewide, speed is the most common factor in crashes that lead to citations. Whether causing a crash or not, speeders on SR 347 got a lot of attention from law enforcement last year.
Of the 853 citations issued by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) along that stretch of highway, 26 percent were for speeding. Another 4 percent got caught tailgating.
Three percent were charged with a variety of other dangerous habits like reckless driving, aggressive driving, drifting into occupied lanes and passing poorly, according to DPS.
DPS’ Highway Patrol and ADOT keep an eye on the same statistics for roads like SR 347. Both departments are assigned the task of keeping highways safe, but from different perspectives. How people drive the highways is the concern of the Highway Patrol. How the highways handle the drivers is ADOT’s domain.
“When evaluating safety along a roadway, ADOT considers the following countermeasures, including establishing speed limits, access management, pavement markings, roadside vegetation, lighting, turn lanes, signage, clear sight lines, etc.,” Krugel said.
That could help determine whether roads need changes. And that could impact how DPS patrols.
“When designing a roadway, ADOT's biggest priority is to reduce fatal crashes and other crashes,” Krugel said.
DPS reported 104 total crashes on SR 347 in 2014.
Citations are not a cure-all for bad habits. And adding lanes is not a safeguard. ADOT has no current plans to add lanes to SR 347.
“Widening a highway that is already a four-lane divided highway is not considered a safety enhancement, but would increase capacity by adding more lanes,” Krugel said.
In Arizona last year, the number of highway fatalities dropped 9 percent, according to ADOT’s 2014 Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts. However, the number of total crashes went up 2 percent.
“The drop in fatal collisions was positive, but sadly, there are 774 people who did not go home to their families last year,” said Col. Frank Milstead, director of DPS.
Operation Care, a law-enforcement program created to reduce highway fatalities, has always listed the top causes of death on America’s roadways as speeding, impaired driving and failure to use occupant restraints.
But DUIs were not high on the list for SR 347 citations, though nearly every DUI stop led to an arrest.