By JASON ECK
Tuolumne County has a lot of open road wide open stretches that invite people to cruise like they're in the Indy 500.
And they do.
A 2002 map of the county prepared by a traffic consulting firm for the Tuolumne County Public Works Department is peppered with black spots: areas and intersections notorious for their crash counts.
The purpose of the study, completed in April 2002, was to identify areas in Tuolumne County that have unusually high crash rates and to recommend ways to make them safer. The $50,000 report Tuolumne Safety Prioritization Study was paid for by the Tuolumne County Local Transportation Commission, a regional transportation planning agency.
Darin Grossi, Tuolumne County deputy director of transportation, ordered the study to get a fresh look at crash data. Then he and other decision makers can ask for state and federal dollars for areas needing safety improvements.
The study tracked traffic-accident history from 1999 through 2001, and determined that the O'Byrnes Ferry Road-Highway 108 intersection is the county's most dangerous.
Two fatal crashes at the end of March and near that intersection, about 10 miles west of Sonora, drove the point home:
A 40-year-old Stockton woman, passenger on a three-wheel motorcycle headed west on Highway 108, was killed after she was thrown from the cycle and run over by another driver. The motorcycle's driver had swerved to avoid a car that had turned left from O'Byrnes Ferry Road onto Highway 108.
A day earlier, a Sonora woman driving west on Highway 108, less than a mile west of O'Byrnes Ferry Road, died after she tried to pass and collided head-on with another driver.
O'Byrnes Ferry Road-108 is just one of the report's 98 black spots places where at least five crashes occurred from 1999 to 2001.
The transportation consulting firm that prepared the report figured the costs of accidents, fatal or otherwise, and ranked the black spots by what those accidents cost in terms of human lives, medical care, insurance, property damage and several other factors.