In a recent study done for the Georgia Department of Transportation, which looked at incidents that occurred at 13 different exits along I-85, Jimmy Carter Boulevard had – by far — the largest number of incidents. As a car accident attorney, I have seen that a large number of car wrecks occur at that exit. Still, I was surprised at the extent to which the intersection has become a problem. The study looked at car accidents, stalled cars, and other traffic-snarling events. A whopping 21% of the incidents occurred at that one intersection. Clearly the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) needs to take a look at the Jimmy Carter intersection and see whether improvements can be made to make the intersection safer and less congested for drivers.
In 2011, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) converted a 16-mile stretch of HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane along I-85 into a HOT (high-occupancy toll) lane. The stretch of roadway runs through DeKalb County, beginning at Chamblee-Tucker Blvd., and into Gwinnett County. The lane ends just before the I-985 spur, at the Old Peachtree Road exit.
GDOT commissioned an engineering firm to look at what affect the HOT lane was having. The study looked at 2570 incidents – ranging from car crashes to stalled vehicles – that occurred at 13 different exits along I-85. The study took into account incidents of all types – car accidents, of course, but also other situations that could affect the flow of traffic: vehicles that stalled on the road or the roadside; roadkill on the highway; debris in the road; construction; and road closures. One percent of the incidents fit none of those categories and were labeled “Other.” A majority – 60% – of the incidents that the company looked at were stalls along the roadway.
The government did not have any database that readily contained the information the engineering firm needed. The company ultimately used data mining to generate information about the year 2010 from the GDOT Navigator database.
What the Study Found
By far the largest number of incidents – auto wrecks, stalls, etc. — occurred at Jimmy Carter Boulevard. A whopping 552 of 2570 incidents — 21% — occurred at the I-85/Jimmy Carter exit.
The next closest exits, in terms of the number of events, were the Pleasantdale Road exit and the interchange where I-85 crosses I-285. Each of those exits saw 325 incidents, or 13% of the total.
Eleven percent of the incidents occurred at Indian Trail – Lilburn Rd. Eight percent occurred where I-85 meets Beaver Ruin Rd., 7% occurred at Chamblee-Tucker Road, and another 7% of the incidents happened at Pleasant Hill Rd. Three exits each were responsible for 5% of the total number of incidents: Steve Reynolds Blvd., SR 316 and Old Peachtree Rd. The Sugarloaf Parkway exit accounted for 3% of the incidents. The exit at Duluth Highway / DR 120 accounted for just 1% of the incidents, as did the I-85 exist at Northcrest Rd.
Why did Jimmy Carter Boulevard have so many incidents?
Certainly the exit at Jimmy Carter Boulevard sees a tremendous amount of traffic each day, and more traffic can generate more incidents. Still, the contrast between Jimmy Carter and the other exits is so stark that it is clear that something needs to be done to fix the problems at the Jimmy Carter exit. Being an attorney and not a highway and traffic safety engineer, I’m not the person who can figure out exactly what ought to be done. But I do know that the experts at GDOT need to be taking a hard look at what can be done to improve that exit for drivers.