Intersections are inherently dangerous, even at their best. At their worst, they can be the setting of dozens of serious and fatal collisions each year. As many local drivers may have discovered, Charleston has a few such intersections. According to the National Coalition for Safer Roads, 13 of the most dangerous intersections in the country are in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Five are in North Charleston alone. Here’s a breakdown of what makes some of Charleston’s intersections so deadly.
#1. International Boulevard and Interstate 526
One of the intersections included in the National Coalition’s report is that at International Boulevard and I-526. This notoriously busy intersection stays congested most of the day, and is extremely accident-prone. Traffic jams and impatient commuters can lead to drivers ignoring the right-of-way or failing to come to complete stops. The South Carolina Department of Transportation is attempting to improve the eight-mile stretch of interstate, which includes the busy interchange, and reduce congestion by creating new lanes near the median.
#2. Main Road and Savannah Highway
The intersection at Main Rd. and Savannah Hwy. is no stranger to fatal accidents. As one of the most dangerous (and most hated by locals, according to a forum on CityData.com) intersections in Charleston, people will even go out of their way to avoid having to pass through. The intersection is home to a ton of traffic, on top of occasional flooding on parts of the road from Johns Island. Charleston City Council is still in talks about a long-term plan to improve the safety of this intersection, such as creating a $1.5 million flyover plan for the road.
#3. Ashley Phosphate Road and Interstate 26
A recent article in The Post and Courier says that more accidents at the intersection of Ashley Phosphate Road and I-26 occurred from 2011 to 2015 (629 collisions) than any other intersection in Charleston County. On average, a crash occurred at this intersection once every three days. Heavy traffic volume contributes to crashes in this location, as well as distracted drivers and poor decision-making behind the wheel. In the 629 accidents at this intersection in four years, 181 people suffered injuries. Luckily, no one died in these crashes.
#4. Interstates 26 and 526
Annual increases in the number of people in Charleston County have led to more traffic at intersections – specifically, a 1.2% increase for the intersection of I-526 and I-26. By crash rank, this intersection comes in second place for Charleston County. Drivers failing to pay attention as they breeze through intersections is a main cause of collisions at this location.
#5. Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Ashley River Road
This is another intersection that came up as one to avoid in the CityData forum. As far back as 2012, city government held public meetings to collect comments about how to improve this dangerous intersection. Like the other dangerous intersections in Charleston, heavy traffic appears to be at the heart of why so many crashes happen here. Project ideas for this intersection included construction of additional turn lanes and increasing lane widths. As of 2017, however, improvements have yet to take place.
If you have to go through on of Charleston’s most dangerous intersections, pay extra attention to your surroundings and oncoming vehicles. Drive defensively, and always yield the right-of-way to the vehicle that pulled up to the intersection first (or the vehicle to the right if you both pulled up at the same time). This is especially the case during the holiday periods, as road travel increases substantially, especially on the freeways.