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3 dangerous intersections: Can Hilton Head make these deadly spots safer?

An interactive map created by The Island Packet shows the three most dangerous intersections on Hilton Head Island.
An interactive map created by The Island Packet shows the three most dangerous intersections on Hilton Head Island.

This story has been updated to reflect the approval of the recommendation for pathway enhancements at the Yacht cove intersection.

Update: The Intergovernmental and Public Safety committee approved the town’s recommendation for increased LED lighting, reflective sign posts and pavement markings at the Yacht Cove intersection on Monday, Sept. 10. The proposed enhancements will now be sent on to the Town Council for consideration in the coming weeks.

Council member David Ames said the proposal was approved with the recommendation for a “speed study” on William Hilton Parkway that would analyze driver behavior and make recommendations for safety improvement.

Speeding drivers and inadequate lighting have combined to turn some Hilton Head Island intersections deadly, according to an analysis of state collision data by The Island Packet.

Two of those intersections — William Hilton Parkway and Yacht Cove Drive and William Hilton Parkway and the Shelter Cove Shopping Center — were the scene of crashes that have claimed four lives since 2013.

Charli Bobinchuck, 11, was struck and killed while walking her dog on June 21 in the crosswalk of the Yacht Cove intersection.

Kevin Reagan, 58, was struck and killed while crossing the same intersection on Nov. 5, 2014.

At the Shelter Cove intersection, 78-year-old bicyclist Deweese Weaver was struck and killed by a motorist as she was walking her bike across the street on Feb. 16, 2017.

At that same intersection, Jerome Stewart, 43, died after he lost control of his vehicle and struck a tree on March 15, 2014. Stewart was driving under the influence, according to the collision report.

The third intersection — William Hilton Parkway and Northridge Drive — was the scene of 33 collisions in the five-year period.

Based on the collision records covering the years 2013-2018, here are some of the reasons that make these intersections some of the most dangerous on Hilton Head:

William Hilton Parkway and Yacht Cove Drive

This mid-island intersection is dangerous because drivers turning onto William Hilton Parkway often speed through the turns there, according to collision reports.

Since 2013, there have been 27 collisions, 12 of which were single-car collisions in which the driver took a turn too quickly or was speeding and ended up on the grassy median or in the crosswalk.

The intersection is notoriously dark, and collision reports reveal that nine of the collisions took place after 8 p.m.

The crosswalk that runs through William Hilton Parkway at this intersection has been the site of two fatalities in the five-year period.

Residents in Yacht Cove and friends of the Bobinchuck family have repeatedly lobbied for lighting at the crosswalk where Charli Bobinchuck was struck and killed earlier this summer.

Joe Izzo, who has brought up the issue repeatedly at Town Council meetings, said the future of pedestrian safety depends on town officials taking his request seriously.

“I was here two and a half years ago, and I was here about the same problem: Our intersection,” Izzo said at the July meeting.

Linda Prosser, another Yacht Cove resident, also spoke at the July meeting.

She expressed concern that drivers can’t see crosswalks clearly on William Hilton Parkway until they are driving through them. In August, Prosser told the Island Packet that “human life is a huge cost” to pay for the island’s longtime stance against artificial light.

Scott Liggett, the town’s director of public projects and facilities, said town staff brought a proposal to the Intergovernmental and Public Safety committee on Monday to install LED lighting, reflective signposts and pavement markings at the intersection, which was approved.

The proposed enhancements will now be sent on to the Town Council for consideration in the coming weeks.

Council member David Ames said the proposal was approved with the recommendation for a “speed study” on William Hilton Parkway that would analyze driver behavior and make recommendations for safety improvement.

Liggett said the town hopes to use the improvements at Yacht Cove “as a model” for other high-speed crosswalks without traffic signals on the island.

But he said personal responsibility is also an important part of the safety equation.

“Even in the best of circumstances, 51 percent of the battle is with human behavior,” he said.

William Hilton Parkway and Shelter Cove Shopping Center

This mid-island intersection is dangerous because of the frequency of stop-and-go traffic and difficult turning movements for drivers leaving the Shelter Cove Shopping Plaza, according to collision reports.

Since 2013, there have been 24 collisions.

Nineteen of them were because of a failure to yield by a car turning out of the plaza and onto William Hilton Parkway, the data found.

Two them were fatal.

The intersection is a popular destination for bicyclists and pedestrians, and signs warning bicyclists were ignored in at least one of the collisions, according to the data.

In Shelter Cove, three collisions have involved a bicyclist or pedestrian since 2013.

South Carolina law requires motorists to yield to bicyclists and pedestrians within marked crosswalks, but it also states that riders and walkers must follow posted stop signs.

Frank Babel, chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee on the island, said that bicyclists need to do their part in respecting the rules of the road.

“It’s not the fault of the intersection,” Babel said about collisions involving bicyclists.

Pedestrian survival rates by speed.png
A chart detailing average survival rates for pedestrians that are hit by motorists at varying speeds. Frank Babel, the chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, used the graphic from the Vision Zero Network to show Town Council members why reducing speed is an important factor in making roadways safer. Frank Babel- provided

He added that he believes many accidents are due to speeding motorists who don’t notice others in the intersection.

Babel suggested that bicyclists and motorists should try “to make eye contact” at every intersection to decide who will be moving first.

William Hilton Parkway and Northridge Drive area

This north end intersection is the scene of heavy traffic by drivers coming to and from the Northridge Shopping Center and cinema.

In the 33 collisions that have occurred in the last five years, 16 involved one or more cars trying to turn between Northridge Drive and William Hilton Parkway. Those collisions are often the fault of the turning drivers who fail to yield to oncoming traffic, according to collision reports.

Although there have been no fatal collisions here in the last five years, it remains a major concern for Town Council member David Ames, who identified it to the Public Planning Committee as a dangerous intersection that is “visually confusing” to drivers because of the nearby traffic light at Mathews Drive.

The traffic light one block east at Mathews Dr. and William Hilton Parkway has been the site of 79 collisions since 2013

Nineteen of those have occurred from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. According to collision reports from the town, there have been no fatalities at this intersection.

Ames said William Hilton Parkway is one of the two main roads that cars use on the island and is technically owned by SCDOT.

“The fact that we have so few alternative roads on Hilton Head creates a problem,” Ames said.

Darkness is also an issue, he said.

“We’re bigger than we used to be, we need more lighting,” Ames said.

While the Yacht Cove proposal does not include overhead lighting, Liggett said the improvements will benefit motorists during day and nighttime because of the reflective signage, bright colors and pavement markings.

Babel also supports better lighting.

Although he said there are “half a dozen intersections that we should seriously consider installing lighting at,” Babel cautioned that “there’s no silver bullet in bike safety” and that one fix will not solve problems at every dangerous intersection on the island.

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