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State making pedestrian-involved accidents a top priority

MORGANTOWN — On average, there are 66 accidents annually causing death or serious injury to vulnerable road users (non-motorists) in West Virginia. 

Of that number, more than 70% of both the drivers and people struck are male. 

A quarter of those crashes involve impaired motorists, pedestrians or both. A third include pedestrians struck while crossing mid-block. 

These accidents are most likely to occur on Thursdays in October and Fridays in August.

This is a small sampling of the data compiled as part of the West Virginia Division of Highways Vulnerable Road User Assessment.  

Donna Hardy, the assistant director of traffic engineering in charge of safety advancements for the WVDOH, recently told members of the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board that the assessment is a new federal mandate to be included in each five-year update of the state’s strategic highway safety plan. 

The goal, she said, is the elimination of deaths and serious injuries. 

“We will not accept any death or serious injury. That is not OK,” she said. “We want to get to zero, but we are unfortunately gravitating upward. Pedestrian accidents is one of the few areas where we’re still trending up no matter what we do. So, we have to do it differently.” 

The state broke road segments into two lists. 

The first, called the high-injury network, are areas where crashes have occurred regardless of contributing factors. 

A portion of Patteson Drive was the number-two-ranked road segment in the state in this category. 

The area where Mineral Avenue, Woodrow Street and Deckers Creek Boulevard converge on Powell Avenue was ranked 11th. 

Both of these areas will have money allocated and a project designed in the next two years. 

The second list is comprised of road segments with all the factors that contribute to accidents but no history of accidents.  

Of the 25 road segments to make this list, the top six and 11 of the top 14 are in Morgantown. All told, 12 of the top 25 are in and around Morgantown. 

You’ll notice a pattern. 

Beechurst Avenue (8th Street to University Avenue) topped the charts, followed by University Avenue (Van Voorhis to 8th Street); University Avenue (North Street to College Avenue); College/University avenues (Willey Street to Jacob Street); Evansdale Drive (University Avenue to Rawley Avenue) and Campus Drive (Beechurst Avenue to University Avenue). 

Moving further down the list, University and Beechurst avenues continue to show up again and again. Segments of Willey Street, North Willey Street and Willowdale Road are also highlighted. 

Hardy said the state will conduct studies on these routes in the next two years. 

“There are five cities in West Virginia that if we focused our attention on intersection improvements and pedestrians, we will get almost all of the problems we are seeing and have been trending upwards,” Hardy said. “We are putting a concerted effort into those five cities. They are Morgantown, Martinsburg, Beckley, Charleston and Huntington.”