Palm Beach County intersections saw a sharp decline in traffic crashes during 2020, as pandemic-related lockdowns and stay-at-home orders forced many people to spend more time indoors and off the roadways.
And for the first time in at least seven years, the highest number of crashes at a single intersection didn’t occur at Okeechobee Boulevard and Military Trail in suburban West Palm Beach, statistics provided by the county’s traffic engineering department show.
Finishing first was South Jog Road and Forest Hill Boulevard in Greenacres, another historically busy crossroad about 6 miles to the southwest. It saw 84 crashes, two more than Military and Okeechobee.
No Palm Beach County intersection saw 100 crashes in 2020, data shows
At least one intersection in Palm Beach County saw 100 or more crashes from 2014 through 2019, county statistics show. That streak ended in 2020, and several heavily traveled intersections saw significant declines in wrecks.
Jog and Forest Hill had exactly 100 crashes in 2019, the third-highest total in the county, and its drop to 84 marked a decrease of 16 percent in 2020.
Okeechobee and Military led the county with 115 crashes in 2019, and the 82 it saw in 2020 was a decrease of 28 percent. Since 2014, that intersection has averaged 135 crashes per year, including a high of 183 crashes in 2017.
South Military Trail and Forest Hill Boulevard in Palm Springs, which had 111 crashes in 2019, had a decrease to 69 last year, down nearly 38 percent.
Fewer cars on the roads, particularly during the peak morning and evening rush hours, reduced the amount of traffic congestion and contributed to the lower number of crashes, said Fadi Emil Nassar, manager for the county’s traffic engineering operations.
He cited the Okeechobee Boulevard corridor as an example, noting its popularity among residents in the western communities who commute to West Palm Beach.
“The downtown traffic was significantly reduced, which means that segment of the traffic going from the western cities all the way to downtown was no longer there,” Nassar said.
“This has had a couple of benefits. The first, of course, is that you have less traffic. You have less friction. That area was extremely congested. Usually, congestion has a high impact on crashes.”
While the number of crashes and the volume of traffic at Forest Hill and Jog also decreased, it still handled more traffic than other roadways that typically have more commuter traffic, Nassar said.
“There was no unusual cluster of type of crashes,” he said. “It is less than previous years. It didn’t drop as much, but traffic also did not drop as much. Basically, it’s almost normal.”
The top 20 most crash-prone intersections were centered largely in the central portion of the county. Three of top five intersections were along South Jog Road, with Jog and Lake Worth roads recording 74 crashes and Jog and Lantana roads 72.
In a comment to The Palm Beach Post Wellington Facebook page, one reader cited speeding along various stretches of Jog Road as a concern.
“You should look at Jog and Lantana and Jog and Hypoluxo and all of the night time drag racing the cops ignore because they cannot keep up,” Sheamus Hunt wrote.
In southern Palm Beach County, three intersections along Atlantic Avenue finished in the top 20 for most crashes, including Atlantic and Congress avenues, which ranked seventh with 70 crashes.
For the fifth consecutive year, Atlantic Avenue and Lyons Road had the county’s highest crash rate, which factors in the number of crashes and the volume of traffic. South Jog Road and Forest Hill Boulevard had the highest crash total in 2020 and had the second-highest crash rate, county data shows. Okeechobee and Military Trail had the 20th highest crash rate in 2020, down from 11th the year before.
No intersections in northern Palm Beach County were in the top 20 for total crashes, with Indiantown Road and Central Boulevard in Jupiter recording the region’s highest total with 53 crashes, tied for 26th in the county.
Traffic fatalities increase in 2020 despite fewer cars being on roads
Despite the decline in crashes and fewer cars being on the roads, there were more traffic fatalities in 2020 than 2019, in line with a national trend.
The National Safety County reported an 8 percent increase in traffic-related deaths nationwide in 2020, in a year in which miles driven decreased by about 13 percent.
Palm Beach County had 176 fatal crashes in 2020, up from 163 in 2019. The majority of the 2020 fatal crashes, 149, were on county and state roads, the county’s data shows.
About half were vehicle crashes, while the remainder was divided among motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians, the data shows.
“The pandemic appears to be taking our eyes off the ball when it comes to traffic safety,” the safety council’s Ken Kolosh told the Associated Press in March.
Said Nassar: “When you have less traffic, this generates higher speeds. (With) those higher speeds, you have more serious injuries and more probability of it being a fatal crash.”
Top 20 most crash-prone intersections of 2020
- 1. South Jog Road and Forest Hill Boulevard, Greenacres, 84
- 2. North Military Trail and Okeechobee Boulevard, suburban West Palm Beach, 82
- 3. South Jog Road and Lake Worth Road, Greenacres, 74
- 4. (tie) North Congress Avenue and 45th Street, West Palm Beach, 72; Lantana Road and South Jog Road, suburban Lantana, 72
- 6. Southern Boulevard and Forest Hill Boulevard/Crestwood Boulevard, Royal Palm Beach, 71
- 7. West Atlantic Avenue and Congress Avenue, Delray Beach, 70
- 8. South Military Trail and Forest Hill Boulevard, Palm Springs, 69
- 9. North Robbins Drive and Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, West Palm Beach, 66
- 10. (tie) Okeechobee Boulevard and North Haverhill Road, suburban West Palm Beach, 63; Okeechobee Boulevard and Wabasso Drive/Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, suburban West Palm Beach, 63
- 12. (tie) South State Road 7 and Forest Hill Boulevard, Wellington, 62; Belvedere Road and Military Trail, suburban West Palm Beach, 62
- 14. (tie) West Atlantic Avenue and northbound Interstate 95, Delray Beach, 61; Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and Spencer Drive/Village Boulevard, West Palm Beach, 61
- 16. North Australian Avenue and Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, West Palm Beach, 60
- 17. (tie) Lantana Road and South Military Trail, suburban Lantana, 59; North Jog Road and Okeechobee Boulevard, suburban West Palm Beach, 59
- 19. (tie) South Military Trail and Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, 58; Southern Boulevard and North State Road 7, Royal Palm Beach, 58