Where are Bellingham's most dangerous intersections and how should you navigate them?

Here’s where accidents are most likely to happen in Bellingham

Bellingham Police logged 1,350 accidents from January 2016 to June 2017. Here are the intersections that saw the highest number of accidents.
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Bellingham Police logged 1,350 accidents from January 2016 to June 2017. Here are the intersections that saw the highest number of accidents.

Chances are, you drive through at least one or two of these intersections every day on your way to work, the store or to drop off the kids for whatever activity they're into. And like most careful drivers, maybe you've made a mental note or two to watch for cars running a red light here or rolling a stop sign there or that pedestrians are hard to see in this crosswalk, because you've seen it happen before.

But where should you be even more careful? Where are accidents most likely to happen in Bellingham and what are the most dangerous intersections in town?

Well that's easy, right? It's got to be somewhere along Guide Meridian — it seems everybody and their brother has to go to the mall or one of the other countless retail stops located just north of Interstate 5 ... not to mention those dang Canadian drivers.

Sorry, nope.

Then it's along Sunset — that area always seems to be overwhelmed with traffic, especially that Bermuda Triangle of chaos right in front of Lowe's between East Sunset Drive, Orleans Street and Barkley Boulevard.

Wrong again. And before you say it, it's not along Alabama Street or in downtown, either.

Most dangerous intersections

According to statistics provided by the Bellingham Police Department Traffic Division, Bellingham's most dangerous intersection, at least in terms of the sheer number of accidents, is at West Bakerview Road and Northwest Drive.

In a distracted driving study conducted by its traffic division from January 2016 through June 2017, Bellingham Police received 1,350 reports of accidents within city limits, regardless of severity or injury. Of those, 43 accidents occurred at the intersection of Bakerview and Northwest — the highest total of any intersection in town.

Bellingham crashes.jpg
Curtis Powless, then 22, of Ferndale, holds his hand that was injured in an accident when his truck flipped on it's side in January 2003. Powless was heading eastbound on Bakerview Road at Cordata Parkway. The intersection ranked No. 3 for the number of traffic accidents during an 18-month distract driving study by the Bellingham Police Department from January 2016 through June 2017. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

"I think part of it might be the increase in traffic with Costco," Sgt. Carr Lanham said, referring to the wholesale warehouse giant's relocation from Guide Meridian to West Bakerview Road north of Fred Meyer in November 2016. "Plus you've got a lot of apartments in the area and the La Quinta and a Starbucks — there's a lot going on at that intersection. A large number of accidents connected with the Northwest and Bakerview intersection are because there are a lot of people turning in and out of there."

But that's not the only place to take extra care along Bakerview.

In fact, three of the top four most dangerous intersections during the 18-month study were in that same corridor: West Bakerview Road and Eliza Avenue had the third highest accident total with 22 wrecks, while West Bakerview Road and Cordata Parkway was fourth highest with 18.

The only intersection breaking up Bakerview's stranglehold on the top of Bellingham's dangerous intersections list — Lakeway Drive and Lincoln Street, which had 25 reported accidents — is very similar, with two busy shopping centers and a school occupying three of the four corners. Nearby Lakeway Drive and King Street tied for sixth-most dangerous with Woburn Street and Barkley Boulevard with 14 reported accidents, each.

Rounding out the top five (or bottom five, if you will) was the lone roundabout to make the list at Cordata Parkway and West Kellogg Road, which had 16 accidents reported.

"Cordata and Kellogg was the first intersection changed to a roundabout to help reduce the number of serious T-bone accidents," Lanham said. "It was a test case, and I'd say it is working pretty well."

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That's not all that seems to be working well.

Lanham credits the C-curbing — or the small, raised cement strips used to separate traffic heading in different directions and limit where turns can be made — for keeping Guide Meridian and Sunset off this list of dangerous intersections.

"I think it's helped with the number of crashes," Lanham said. "It's really the only thing we've changed. It does not allow people to cross over like they can with a double yellow line. That's the only reason I can think of."

Driving responsibilities

So, what's the key to safely navigating each these vehicular snake pits, along with the eighth-most dangerous intersection and the only one to have a double-digit collision total (11) on the west side of Interstate 5 during the 18 month study — North State Street and Ohio Street?

Actually, Lanham said, it's not all that different than getting safely through any other intersection around town.

"The key is keeping their heads up and looking out for everybody else," Lanham said. "It comes back to our safety campaign — 'Travel with Care' — and it applies all across the city and to all vehicles, bikes and pedestrians. Everybody has got families to get home to, and everybody has got to pay attention to what they're doing."

The Bellingham Police Department's "Travel with Care" campaign is aimed at getting drivers, bikers and pedestrians to all pay attention to their surroundings while traveling. Bellingham Police Department Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

That means put the phone down. It means stop fiddling with the car stereo and wait until you get to where you're going to put on your makeup or eat that value meal you just picked up. It means focus solely on the single-most dangerous thing most of us will do in a given day.

According to the "Travel with Care" campaign, most collisions happen when people are not paying attention, which means we should all:

See what is happening down the road.

Make eye contact with each other.

Realize that whenever two streets intersect, it's a crosswalk.

Know that phone distraction is as unsafe as alcohol impairment.

Give cyclists at least three feet of space.

Make zero crashes between cars, bikes and pedestrians the ultimate goal.

"It comes down to each individual traveling with care," Lanham said, "vehicles looking out for pedestrians and bikes, bikes looking out for vehicles and pedestrians and pedestrians looking of for vehicles and bikes. Everybody is in this together."