Steering Clear: Where Not to Drive in Dallas

A few years ago, somebody coined the phrase “Drive Defensively.” Considering the fact that once every ten minutes somebody in Dallas has a traffic accident, that’s not bad advice. To implement it, though, you need good solid defensive strategy. One logical deduction is that the best way to avoid traffic accidents is to avoid the places where traffic accidents happen. While there may be loopholes in that argument, we’ll choose to ignore them. Granted that if you apply this theory too stringently you may find that you can never get where you want to go, but then again, better never than not at all.

In a magnanimous effort, the D research staff has rallied to the aid of the Dallas driver. Risking life, limb and fender, those brave souls have compiled a study of the worst intersections in Dallas, the nucleus from which to formulate your places-to-avoid-while-driving strategy.

First stop was the Dallas Police Department, which was most willing to contribute to this effort. After all, the more people who avoid the intersections, the easier the life will be for the force. The Police Department offered statistics which indicated where the most accidents had occurred during the first six months of 1975. (A technical note: these statistics indicate the number of accidents within the intersection itself, as opposed to the Traffic Control Dept. statistics which include the roadway 100 ft. in each direction. That should clear that up.)

A few interesting observations may be noted. These are not necessarily the most dangerous places to drive in Dallas in terms of fatalities: in fact, of the accidents at the intersections mentioned here, only two were fatal. These intersections are simply the most accident-prone and thus the most wisely avoided. It is also curious that of the worst intersections, all (except for one unusual case in Oak Cliff) are located in North Dallas-either North Central, Northwest, or Far North. It’s difficult to know what conclusions to draw from that, but one must certainly be that there are a lot of lousy drivers in North Dallas.

1. Northwest Highway -Lemmon/Marsh

Driving west on Northwest Highway, bearing down on the intersection where Lemmon crosses Northwest Highway from the south and becomes Marsh Lane on the north, you come upon something like a great concrete Christmas tree. There are no less than 14 sets of traffic lights at this giant among intersections – which may have something to do with the havoc wreaked among Dallas drivers here. Currently the frontrunner in the race for the 1975 Worst Intersection of the Year Award, this carnivorous creature has 24 accidents in its clutches already this year. There are several contributing factors. One is the fact that this is actually a double intersection with each direction of traffic on widely-divided Lemmon-Marsh having its own set of traffic signals. Further confusing the issue are a U-turn lane on the Lemmon side of NW Hwy and a couple of two-way cross streets on the Marsh side which are supposed to help feed traffic in and out of the Walnut Hill Village shopping center on the northwest corner. There is also a huge volume of traffic here, estimated at 60,000 cars per day. It’s probably no coincidence that this intersection is also near the heartland of Fun City West (that concentration of bars and restaurants that is to the west side what Old Town/Greenville Avenue is to the east side), meaning that there is a hefty percentage of drivers on the tipsy side passing through here. It probably is a coincidence that nearby on Shore Crest Drive is the Dallas Police District Training Center – the rookies must get plenty of practice action from this spot.

2. Lemmon-Mockingbird

Only a couple of blocks away sits the closest challenger, a longtime nemesis to Dallas drivers. Lemmon-Mockingbird registered 16 accidents in the first half of 1975 and it’s not difficult to see why. What you have here is the intersection of two of the most frustrating streets in the entire city. Imagine Driver A coming north on Lemmon from Oak Lawn: This poor soul has just fought his way through the free-for-all along the Lemmon Avenue fast food strip, a notorious training ground for those who wish to learn the fine art of sudden lane changing. As he breaks into the clear north of Inwood, Driver A sees the light at Mockingbird change to yellow. Not about to relinquish this new freedom of movement, he steps on it. Meanwhile, here comes Driver B, going west on Mockingbird. He has just narrowly averted a nervous breakdown after driving all the way from Hillcrest through Highland Park’s intimidating series of stoplights, designed to keep drivers from ever topping 20 MPH, and effectively discouraging use of Mockingbird as a crosstown thoroughfare. Having hit eight out of eight red lights (including the one that allows Dallas Country Club golfers to toodle across in their golf carts), Driver B is determined to give his clutch a rest and time the Lemmon Avenue light so that he can hit it at the moment it turns green and cruise right through. Driver B, meet Driver A. Lemmon-Mocking-bird, meet #17.

3. Knox-McKinney

Until a few years ago, McKinney Avenue was a two-way street. There are those who think it still is. People who travel McKinney frequently (it is now northbound only; Cole Avenue handles the southbound traffic), not infrequently approach the Knox intersection in the left lane only to see a car come round the southwest corner in their lane heading straight toward them. Or they stop at the intersection awaiting a green light, only to see a car pull out of the Safeway parking lot on the northwest corner, turn south on McKinney and pull up to the red light directly opposite them in a face-off. While temporarily terrifying, the moment of recognition on the part of the faulty driver is always wonderfully rewarding – the combined look of utter panic and acute embarrassment is enough to brighten any frustrated driver’s day. Unless, of course, the moment of recognition never comes, as has happened 13 times here this year. This intersection has other things working against it, most notably the nearness of the buildings to the curbs at three of the four corners, offering poor visibility upon approach to the intersection. The proximity of North Central Expressway (one block away) should also be mentioned – the vibes from that highway alone are enough to cause a few accidents. There is also the negative influence of nearby Highland Park Cafeteria, second only to the fountain in the middle of Snider Plaza as a practice area for aspirants to the Senior Citizens’ Automotive Olympics.

4. Harry Hines-Royal Lane

This intersection seems to be taking Harry Hines honors away from notorious Tom Field Circle (Harry Hines at Northwest Highway), undisputed City Champ two years ago with 135 accidents in or near the circle. But Tom Field Circle is now only a single pillar of dirt with a grass crown, left as some sort of battlefield monument to past heroics by the bulldozers which are still working to create a safe intersection here. Even so, there have been 19 accidents at Tom Field Pillar this year, but most are directly attributable to the chaos of construction. Most of the 11 accidents at the Harry Hines-Royal Lane intersection to the north are probably attributable to the absence of left turn signals at this increasingly busy spot. Some of the trouble may stem from the abundance of commercial traffic here, coming down Royal from nearby Stemmons, not to mention Harry Hines itself. Commercial traffic is made up of those who drive for a living and, by trade, they’re an aggressive bunch. They’re no threat to each other – it’s the guy daydreaming along in his air conditioned Buick Electra that gums up the works. Whatever the causes of the accidents, this intersection appears ready for them: there are three auto parts shops, a repair and welding shop, two motorcycle stores (in case you want to give up cars completely), and, of course, an insurance office. Researchers spotted a driver’s training car negotiating a left turn here – must have been a final exam.

5. Royal-Marsh

This is the mystery intersection of 1975. There is no apparent reason why there have been nine traffic accidents here this year. It’s a nice wide-open intersection of two six-lane streets with good visibility; there are no commercial distractions, as it is flanked on all sides by residential homes; there are left turn signal lights all the way around; and the speed limits are a cautious 35 MPH. It may be that air of serenity that does the damage – one of those intersections that lulls you (you could drive through it two hundred times without really noticing it) until one day somebody else in a lull comes from another direction at the same time. If so, the reverse must be true for those seemingly deadly intersections which somehow don’t show up on the statistics sheet. For example, Preston at Armstrong and Lakeside – streets fanning off in all directions, tricky curves, traffic lights pointing every which way, and no comprehensible system. It looks so treacherous that you’re afraid to make a move, especially when using Lakeside, until you’re sure it’s a safe one. Thus, no accidents. We hesitate to suggest that this theory be applied to the construction of new intersections.

There you have it- five or so places to avoid like the plague while driving. Your odds have just improved enormously. If the massive traffic diversion which is sure to follow results in some new worsts, we’ll be sure to report them next year. Happy Trails.


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