I raised a fuss when the city decided to restripe Highway 34 through Madison into four skinny driving lanes and a center left-turn lane. Madville Times readers gave the new stripes a hard thumbs-down when they changed the face of Madison traffic.
But initial traffic accident data suggest the five lanes are doing exactly what the state engineers promised: reducing accidents.
Between Jan. 1, 2010 and June 1, 2010, DPS officials logged one angle-intersection collision and one left-turn lane crash on SD-34 inside the city. In comparison, the city saw an annual average of about a dozen accidents from 2006 to 2008 that could have been influenced by the lack of a center-turn lane through town.
...The accident information for the first half of 2010 indicated that there were zero incidents of rear-end or sideswipe, same-direction collisions.
During 2008, DPS officials collected information on Madison SD-34 accidents that included two angle-intersection; four left-turn; three rear-end; and one sideswipe, same direction collisions. The total number of reported collision types was 10.
In 2007, they collected data on 10 angle-intersection; seven left-turn; one rear-end; and one sideswipe, same direction crashes for a total of 19.
During 2006, DPS staff members accumulated information on four angle-intersection; two left-turn; five rear-end; and two sideswipe, same-direction collisions for a total of 13 [Chuck Clement, "Accident Data Indicate Fewer SD-34 Collisions in Madison," Madison Daily Leader, 2010.12.09].
Now these data alone posit no causation yet, and state DOT engineer Scott Jansen would like to get a couple more years of post-restripe data to make some more reliable comparisons. But consider: current accident data show a nearly 7% increase in the number of crashes across South Dakota this year compared to last. Small towns may be rife with statistical anomalies, but so far, the five-lane restriping in Madison appears to be living up to its safety promise.
But I still think Jon Hunter had a better plan... and you'll still see me riding my bike right down the right-wheel track in that right lane. Make way!