The most accident-prone intersections in rural Walworth County
GENEVA -- It was a cloudy and dry August morning, and Amber Bouchez was northbound on Highway 67 headed to work when a motorist pulled out from Town Hall Road, crossed the highway and caused Bouchez to swerve at 55 mph.
Within seconds, Bouchez ran through scenarios to avoid causing injuries to that driver and people in a car and utility truck at a stop sign on Palmer Road.
“At this point, it feels like the angels are on your shoulders,” said Bouchez, of Williams Bay.
Her Honda Civic hit slivers of the stopped car and utility vehicle before striking a telephone pole. The crash totaled her car.
Bouchez walked away with bumps and bruises from an accident that she says could have been fatal.
“Ironically enough, later that afternoon, I went to look at my car at the towing company, and a gentleman that worked there said he had just gotten back from a second trip to that intersection to pick up a motorcycle that afternoon,” Bouchez said.
Bouchez's accident was one of 21 in a 10-year span at the intersection of Highway 67 and Palmer/Town Hall Road. That made it the most accident-prone intersection in rural Walworth County, according to data collected by the UW-Madison Transportation Information Center and analyzed by The Gazette.
Bouchez wasn't surprised at that s ranking and said the data are consistent with the local rumor mill.
According to the data, the most injury crashes between 2004 and 2014 were at:
-- Highway 67 and Palmer/Town Hall Road, towns of Delavan and Geneva, 21 crashes.
-- Highways 50 and 67, town of Delavan, 20.
-- Highway 89 and County A, town of Richmond, 19.
-- Highway 12 and County P, town of Whitewater, 18.
-- Highway 14 and Brick Church and Six Corners roads, town of Walworth, 17.
-- County F and Mound Road, town of Delavan, 15.
-- County J and Town Line Road, town of East Troy, 15.
-- Highway 12 and County A, town of Sugar Creek, 14.
-- Highway 50 and County F, town of Delavan, 14.
-- Highway 50 and Town Hall Road, town of Delavan, 14.
-- Highway 12 and County H, town of LaGrange, 12.
-- Highway 14 and County K, town of Sharon, 12.
-- Highway 67 and County K, town of Sharon, 12.
-- Bluff Road and County H, town of LaGrange, 12.
None of the top intersections shocked Kevin Brunner, Walworth County director of public works and central services, or Ray Clark, town of Delavan police chief.
Why do some intersections have more accidents than others? Factors include the number of vehicles, speed, signage, drivers' familiarity with the intersection and the layout.
The town of Delavan has five of the most accident-prone intersections.
Clark couldn't explain exactly why but said it could be because of the number of major highways and roads cutting through Delavan compared to those in other rural municipalities.
Highway 67 and Palmer/Town Hall Road isn't nearly as complicated as other rural intersections.
Clark again couldn't say why this intersection is more prone to injury accidents than others, besides the fact Palmer Road has a hill right before the stop sign and drivers going 45 mph too often don't see it and enter traffic going at least 55 mph.
People driving in the countryside often think they have roads to themselves. But driveways jut into rural Walworth County roads, people often drive too close to vehicles ahead of them and turnoff streets can be unexpected for motorists unfamiliar with the roads.
Motorists also can travel long distances without seeing signs, leading drivers to miss warning signs before intersections, Clark said.
Clark and Brunner encourage safe driving practices to avoid accidents.
-- Don't be on the phone while driving.
-- Go the speed limit--or under if you're not familiar with the area.
-- Always be observant of your surroundings.
-- Wear a helmet or seat belt.
“Divided attention is where we get a lot of accidents,” Clark said of people being on their phone or messing with music while driving. “Drive the speed limit, and be observant. That's going to prevent a lot of accidents.”
The intersection commonly known as Six Corners is unsurprisingly in the top five.
Three roads come together to create six corners at awkward angles. The intersection, easily described as scary and life-threatening, causes people to inch forward past stop signs to get looks at traffic in each direction.
Highway 14, a truck route, has people zooming faster than the 55 mph speed limit and intersects with other roads with a speed limit of 45.
In March, a man driving a Ford Focus during a shift change at the nearby Kikkoman plant ran a stop sign at Six Corners, got stuck beneath a semitrailer truck westbound on Highway 14 and was dragged before being taken to a hospital with injuries.
While Six Corners is a dangerous intersection, it is also a place that demonstrates how people from various groups can unite to make positive changes, Brunner said.
The day after the accident, a Kikkoman administrator contacted Brunner about how to make Six Corners safer during shift changes.
The intersection falls under the jurisdiction of the town of Walworth and Wisconsin Department of Transportation. But the county's highway safety commission has been working with Kikkoman, the town and the DOT to make it safer in the short term by adjusting locations of stop signs, adding painted islands and removing unnecessary signage.
The state plans long-term changes to the intersection in 2019.
Improvements such as roundabouts and solar-paneled lights atop stop signs can make intersections safer.
Local officials say drivers need to know they're not invincible, keep tabs on what is happening around them and follow one of the top rules of driving--always watch for other people on the road.
Bouchez has always been a cautious driver. Now, going to and from work each weekday, she slows down even more when she passes the rural intersection where she recently saw skid marks just like those she made.