Monthly Archives: December 2012

Why official accident stats don’t always match citizen complaints

The in basket: I often get complaints from readers about a lot of accidents at some location where the governing jurisdiction’s data shows not nearly as many. Sometimes it’s clearly because of a lag in the official record keeping reports, and sometimes people exaggerate. But I wondered whether there are other explanations.

The out basket: Trooper Russ Winger explains the official records:

“These stats are compiled from the Police Traffic Collision Report (PTCR) that law enforcement officers statewide submit as a Reportable Collision. The Washington State Patrol Collision Records Section is the repository for the state’s collision records.

“They receive all Vehicle Collision Reports from law enforcement officers of the state, county, city, town, or other political subdivision along with civilians that report their own collision.

“These reports are written for each vehicle collision resulting in injury or death of any person, or damage to the property of any one person to an apparent extent of $700 or more.

“Statewide collision statistics are gathered and entered into a data base at Collision Records in Olympia. The WSDOT is the agency that oversees the data collection although it is administered by the WSP office of Collision Records. Washington State shares its data with NHTSA, the Federal agency responsible for traffic safety and information.

“Officers complete the PTCR either in hand written form, which are then mailed in or through electronic format.

“Officers who investigate collisions have to make a judgment call about the monetary damage to vehicles in deciding whether to complete the PTCR. It takes relatively little damage to reach the $700 level in modern vehicles.

“Persons involved in collisions investigated by law enforcement where a PTCR is completed are NOT required to complete a Civilian Collision Report.

“Many very minor collisions are also investigated by law enforcement that fall under the “non-reportable” class. They are usually very minor damage, or no damage, such as when a vehicle slides into a ditch and no damage results. The officer usually takes the basic information down and enters it into their respective jurisdiction data base. A PTCR is not completed and therefore this information is not reported to Collision Records. Drivers involved can complete a Civilian Collision Report individually if they choose to do so but the reports are not mandatory.

“Drivers involved in minor collisions that are not investigated by law enforcement, where drivers decide mutually to simply exchange information and leave, can also complete and submit a Civilian Report. Submission is again not mandatory for either party.

“So it is true, numerous collisions happen across the state that are not investigated by law enforcement or reported to Accident Records in Olympia by drivers or police. Drivers sometimes just drive off, after crashing the vehicle. Many collisions that occur during a storm or snow event are just driven off, even though they may have sustained reportable damage or injury. There are numerous scenarios possible where collisions are not reported to Olympia,” Russ concluded.

Who’s supposed to deal with dark street lights?


The in basket: James Zamudio wrote in November to say the street light on the Burley/Olalla entrance on Highway 16 going towards Port Orchard had been out for over six months.

I also have heard from a reader or two over a couple of years about a street light on Highway 3 at Lake Flora Road being out.

Over the years I’ve been doing Road Warrior, I have never understood the relationship between governments and power companies regarding darkened street lights, or navigational lights on bridges, and who is responsible for dealing with them. I asked Claudia Bingham Baker of the state Department of Transportation about it.

The out basket: “We work on a courtesy basis with other jurisdictions.” Claudia said, “in that if we notice their luminaires are out, we will contact them to let them know. “That is the case with the Lake Flora luminaire, which is not in our jurisdiction. Our signal folks will try to determine who maintains that luminaire and let them know it needs maintenance.

“The Burley Olalla luminaire should be within our jurisdiction, and a signal maintenance crew will be sent to the site to relamp the luminaire.

“We perform preventive maintenance on the electrical service to each highway luminaire every year, during which we turn the lamps on to verify they are working. “Every four years we relamp all luminaires as part of our ongoing highway maintenance.  If a lamp goes out in-between electrical maintenance service, we may not notice for a while and appreciate it when motorists let us know.”

I guess the Road Warrior served that purpose in September when I told Claudia that the street lights along a good stretch of the old Tacoma Narrows Bridge were out in the westbound direction, and might have been for weeks. She thanked me, said they had been unaware of the problem and would fix it.

Lane changes on Greaves Way creating collisions

The in basket: Brandon Ackerman e-mailed me in December to make me aware of all the bad wrecks at the new intersection on Old Frontier Road at Greaves Way north of Silverdale

“I live on the corner (and) have listened to about 10 to 20 bad accidents in the last two years!” he said. “I think the county needs to change the set-up coming from Greaves.

“There is a turn-only lane coming down the hill with a solid white line. Cars coming from Greaves in the turn-only lane jump at the last minute to the fast lane, which goes straight.

“At that point,” Brandon said, “the cars (turning from) Old Frontier think the car is turning, which gives them the right of way.”

When they turn, Brandon said, the car on Greaves cuts to the other line “and SLAM, big WRECK!”

“The county needs to change this intersection or add the big white cone things to keep cars from changing lanes  at the last 50 feet,” Brandon said.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, traffic engineer for Kitsap County, says, “We show 10 reported collisions at or near the intersection from early 2010 until early 2012.  The state office that sends us traffic reports is usually about six months or so behind current date.

“We had an earlier complaint about visibility and collisions at this location, so the road department went out in early May and did some heavy pruning to improve motorist’s visibility.

“We will also add a lane usage sign coming down from Greaves Way to let motorist know earlier which lane to use.  Hopefully these two improvements will reduce the number of collisions,” Jeff said. “We will continue to monitor and control the vegetation.”

What’s the story with NK’s white on blue house number signs?

The in basket: I was driving around North Kitsap recently and once again noticed the proliferation of blue signs with white numerals listing the house numbers where homes are grouped on a common driveway. There are dozens of them on Viking Way coming into Poulsbo from the south, and many more at other locations, including quite a few in Central Kitsap.

I rarely see them in South Kitsap, where I live.

Was the placement of those signs the result of some organized campaign, perhaps by North Kitsap firefighters? It seems like it would have taken collaboration by a lot of people, to acquire them and mount them one above the other, which seems to be the common display.

The out basket: Three readers and Susan Gibbs  of Poulsbo Fire replied when this first was posted. Susan said,

“Fire Districts in Kitsap County initially recieved a grant for address signs about five years ago. Poulsbo Fire has continued offering the signs to citizens in our district, and as mentioned above, gladly accept donations to continue the program. We have promoted the signs in our annual newsletter, and at various community events. I would advise contacting your local fire department to inquire if the signs are available to you, it is a great way to clearly display your address.

Greg Rogers of South Kitsap Fire says they participated in the grant and have given out many of the signs, despite my experience of not seeing them. They’re mostly in rural areas. For lack of funding, SK fire no longer provides them, he said.


Misleading center strip replaced on Highway 166

The in basket: In the early 1970s, when I was a new reporter for The Sun, I almost made headlines while assigned to accompany the Kitsap County commissioners on a fact-finding mission to Northern California to look at recreational developments done by Boise Cascade, which wanted to create one on Hood Canal.

One dark night after dinner, I was driving our rental car with the commissioners – Bill Mahan, Gene Lobe and Frank Randall – as passengers on a curving mountain road near Grass Valley.

With a slow driver ahead of me, I watched the center striping for a sign that I had a chance to pass. I came to a dashed line on my side, pulled out to pass and found an oncoming car coming around a bend.

I just barely made it back into my lane ahead of the car I was passing, or I might have been responsible for the deaths of the commissioners and myself.

That scare came to mind recently when I happened to notice the striping on Highway 166 coming out of Port Orchard heading toward Gorst. I rarely pay attention to the striping on local roads I drive all the time, not needing the information they provide.

I noticed that there was a dashed stripe on my side as I drove west toward Gorst, indicating it was safe to pass there if there was no oncoming traffic, even though it was in a curve that ended with a rise beyond which a driver could not see. I seemed very much like the stripe that had misled me in California all those years ago. I had no idea how long it had been like that.

I asked State Traffic Operations Engineer Steve Bennett if it wasn’t an accident waiting to happen.

The out basket: Yes, Steve said, and you won’t find that stripe there today.

“After looking at that section, we agreed that it should have been striped as no-pass,” he said on Dec. 11. “Last week or so, we went out and striped it. We believe it had been incorrectly striped as part of the last paving project on the highway.”

That was a couple of years ago. It’s funny it went unnoticed so long.


Beach Drive overflow could create skids on ice

The in basket: Don Bidwell has been after me for many months to address a water-over-the-roadway situation on Beach Drive about mid-way between Retsil and Waterman in South Kitsap, and this week Olger Ingulsrud added his voice to the subject.

“I travel on Beach Drive in Port Orchard every day,” Olger said, “and since the rains have started, there is a spot a half-mile west of  the intersection of Beach Drive and Hillcrest that has lots of water running across the  road. There are signs installed, saying water on roadway.

“My concern is that there is a potential safety hazard of an accident happening when the water turns into ice,” he said. “My question is, does the road department have plans to install a culvert, and, if so, when will this happen ?

Don couched his concern in terms of the road icing up on freezing mornings, too. “The county came this summer with a big crew and dug a big hole on each side of the culvert,” Don said in October.  “But they did not clear the creek bed upstream. It still wanders around (a neighboring) property under a travel trailer because the channel is completely filled.

“It will be interesting to see if the creek with a good flow will make it into the culvert,” he said. “I kind of doubt it.”

On Nov. 27, he sent the picture you can see by clicking on Read the rest of this entry, below.

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works, says, “Crews were out working in that area (the week of Dec. 6). Because of upstream and downstream problems – sediment – we are limited in what we can do. Last summer we cleaned our portion (the part that is in right of way) and thought it would be good for some time but during the first real storm of the season sediment from up-stream caused the culvert to back up.

“This is a fish-bearing stream and we need permits from the state before we can work in that area and the permits limits what we can do. We were granted an emergency permit to do the work (in December), but a bigger project would have to go through the formal permit process. We are looking at long-term solutions for that area. We are aware of the problems there and monitor it on a regular basis.”

What’s holding up the Noll Road roundabout in Poulsbo?

The in basket: Ellen Ross-Cardoso of Poulsbo asks, “Could you find out if the construction of the unneeded roundabout at Lincoln and Noll in Poulsbo is ever going to end?

“According to the signs it was supposed to have been completed September 1, and more than three months later they’re still out there screwing with it. Is this a lot more complicated than it seems, or is there no meaningful work out there for county road crews?”

The out basket: It is actually a city of Poulsbo project, with a little financial participation from the county.

Mike Lund, the city’s senior field inspector, says, “The Noll Road Roundabout Project is just about complete. The contractor, RV Associates, has a few more punch list items to complete and the project will be over.

“The project was scheduled to be completed October 15 (though the construction sign said Sept. 30). The contractor has been working on completing the punch list items since mid-October but between the bad weather and scheduling of subcontractors, it has taken longer than expected.

“The workers your reader saw onsite are actually part of the contractors and subcontractors work force. The city of Poulsbo has an inspector that is onsite as needed but not full time now.

“RV Associates has done a good job on this project,” Mike said. “Unfortunately some things just take a little longer than expected. The project will be completed by the end of next week and the project will be completed under budget.”


11th Street lane at Warren barricaded by cones

The in basket: The recent story in this newspaper about the inconveniences being visited on a lot of Bremerton traffic by the street projects at three intersections on Warren Avenue didn’t mention my most recent curiosity.

Why, I asked city street engineer Gunnar Fridriksson, has the innermost turn lane on 11th Street for turning to go north on Warren been blocked off by cones? I couldn’t see any work at the intersection that benefited from the closure. It left only one turn lane to serve a lot of traffic.

And, I asked, will it be that way until the expanded intersection, which will be a major improvement, is completed in March?

The out basket: No, Gunnar replied. it will end when work on Warren no longer requires intermittent closure of one of its two lanes at 13th Street, which is being readied for a traffic signal. “This way everyone is already into one lane coming onto Warren Avenue,” he said, and don’t have to merge on Warren.

I watched the single lane back up briefly into the 11th and Warren intersection when it hit the lane closure on Warren Thursday afternoon, so it probably would happen at every light change if both lanes of 11th were feeding onto Warren.

The cones are removed when no work is going on, Gunnar said.