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Albert Lea is seeing an ongoing problem at the intersections of Main and Bridge. The problem is too many collisions. The Albert Lea Tribune looked at the Albert Lea Police Department crash data from the last three years and found that the intersections on Bridge Avenue (County road 22) and Main Street have a significantly higher number of crashes than other streets in town.

  • In 2009 out of the 264 total crashes 58 of them occurred on Bridge Avenue — anywhere from Clark Street out to Interstate 90 — and 48 happened somewhere on Main Street.
  • In 2008, there were 55 crashes on Main Street and 50 on Bridge Avenue, out of a total of 324 crashes.
  • Similarly in 2007, there were 61 on Bridge Avenue and 61 on Main Street, out of a total of 304 crashes.

So they looked into why. The Chief of Police, Dwaine Winkels, said he thinks part of the problem with all the crashes on Bridge Avenue is that Freeborn County leaders removed parking on the street in 2007. “That created a wide open thoroughfare,” he said. “I feel that when they had more parking out there, people had to be conscious of the parking. When we opened it up, we created a wide-open freeway out there.” Yep, on of the very common issues of speed.

Winkels also talked about distractions. "Texting, cell phones, no one’s going to admit it, but why would you not see a car is stopped in front of you?” he said. “Cell phones are a big distraction for drivers.” There’s another one, that we see a lot, Intextication.

The paper also noted the problem in having multiple teenagers in a car with Albert Lea High School nearby. “The more kids in the car, the more chance you have of getting in an accident, especially for teenage drivers, inexperienced drivers,” Winkels added. “Studies show that causes accidents just because of distractions. Throw a cell phone in there or a video game, that just adds to it.” Steve Lombardi, has extensively covered the issues with inexperienced drivers.

Minnesota Department of Transportation traffic counts show there are about 12,700 cars daily on Bridge Avenue where it meets Fountain and about 6,600 cars daily on the stretch of Fountain where it meets Bridge.

The final question is what to do about it?

Freeborn County has been asked to conduct a comprehensive countrywide safety plan. There has been talk of increased routes and decreasing access. I would suggest that programs be put together at the school to educate the youngest drivers. Maybe even discuss if a stop light, stop sign, or maybe even a roundabout might be added.

It’s interesting in looking at this case study that many of the same reasons come up when we look at most collisions. Hopefully, continuing to shine light on the issue will keep future drivers safe.

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