The intersection at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW--a tourist crossroad to the national Mall--has been identified as the most dangerous in the District, according to the American Automobile Association's Top 10 list of the most harrowing crossroads.
The list was based on the number of accidents reported per 1 million cars that passed through the intersections, said Mantill Williams, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. The city's worst intersection had 39 accidents and a rate of 2.63 accidents per 1 million. Benning Road and Kenilworth Avenue NE placed second with 63 accidents and a rate of 2.43, though it had the highest death rate, with two fatal accidents.
The District list is part of a larger study that also looked at the most hazardous intersections in Maryland and Virginia. The data covered 1997 for the District and Maryland, and 1998 for Virginia. The figures were based on the latest data available.
"In the city, it's a combination of things," Williams said. "There is a lot of congestion, and drivers can be a little bit too aggressive."
The goal of the list is to alert the public to dangers and to "put a spotlight on certain areas," Williams said.
Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue NE was third with 71 accidents and a rate of 2.18. Firth Sterling Avenue and Suitland Parkway SE, which ranked fourth, had the second-highest death rate, with one fatal accident in 1997. The intersection had 39 accidents and a rate of 2.14. The intersection of South Capitol and I streets SE ranked fifth with 45 accidents and a rate of 2.05.
Most of the accidents were caused by driver error, such as motorists running red lights, Williams said. Some intersections have high traffic volume and tourists who aren't familiar with the area, he said.
"This area is a popular route for most tourists to make a quick dash to the Mall," Williams said of 14th Street and Constitution Avenue.
Encouraging safe driving is important, but the city should also work on making pedestrian walkways easier to spot, said Barbara McCann, manager of the quality of life campaign for the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a District advocacy group. She said that the study is a good idea, but that more signs alerting drivers to an upcoming intersection and more crossing islands for walkers would make intersections safer for everyone.
Police and city officials said they are studying intersections to see if more signs are needed. But the most important thing, they say, is to make sure drivers follow safety rules.
The District has increased its campaign against red-light runners this fall by installing automated detection cameras at intersections where many drivers violate traffic regulations. Arlington, Fairfax and Howard counties and the cities of Fairfax and Alexandria have installed or ordered such systems.
"The way you prevent crashes is enforcement, education and an effective use of technology," said Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer. "When people get behind the wheel of a car, they do things they wouldn't do in any other walk of life."
An economic boom drawing more drivers to the District also has made some intersections worse, Williams said. Add that to an increase in construction that holds up traffic, and intersections become a place to vent road rage.
"There's just too many people and too much construction," said Motilal Lal, a taxi driver with Aspen Cab. "It can get dangerous."
The other intersections in the AAA Top 10 list for the District are:
* Minnesota and Pennsylvania avenues SE
* First Street and New York Avenue NW
* Montana and New York avenues NW
* Fourth Street, Interstate 395 and New York Avenue
* Florida and New York avenues NE