Cam Newton's wreck site is one of city’s most dangerous intersection

The intersection where Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wrecked Tuesday has been climbing Charlotte’s list of dangerous locations for years.

Since 2009, as many as 15 motorists have been injured in wrecks there.

The intersection of West Hill and South Church streets near Interstate 277 ranks fourth on the city’s latest list of roads where crashes are most likely to occur. The intersection ranked eighth last year, records show, and 17th in 2012.

Charlotte Department of Transportation’s High Accident Location list takes into account traffic volume, the number of accidents and their severity at thousands of intersections.

According to the report, the intersection saw 11 collisions in 2013, giving it a crash rate of 2.33 for every million vehicles. Six of the accidents were angle crashes, which are often more dangerous than rear-end collisions.

There have been seven angle crashes so far this year, according to Linda Durrett, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation.

Srinivas Pulugurtha, assistant director for the Center of Transportation Policy Studies at UNC Charlotte, said the intersection’s angle makes it dangerous.

West Hill Street, which feeds traffic onto an I-277 on-ramp, doesn’t intersect South Church Street at a right angle, making it difficult for motorists to see oncoming traffic.

South Church is a one-way road with a slight grade upward as it approaches I-277. Drivers often speed south to the interstate’s on-ramp or the road’s intersection with Morehead Street.

“The skewness of the intersection certainly complicates the problem,” Pulugurtha said.

Pulugurtha said a stop sign on South Church could be an easy fix, though it could also cause some delays.

A flashing signal – either a yellow one on South Church or a red one on West Hill – could also be effective, especially if they’re triggered by traffic rather than flashing constantly, which drivers can become numb to.

Mary Schulken, a former Observer editor, knows the dangers of the intersection.

In early 2007, Schulken’s two-door Honda Accord was T-boned by an SUV crossing South Church.

The impact shattered the car’s windows and forced Schulken, who is now executive director of communications, public affairs and marketing at East Carolina University, to climb out of the passenger-side door.

“I was lucky,” Schulken said. “The car was totaled, but I was fine.”

Durrett said city engineers are evaluating the intersection for possible safety improvements.

The only intersections with a higher crash rate last year were East Eighth and North College streets and East Ninth and North College streets in uptown and Cambridge Commons Drive and Harrisburg Road in east Charlotte near the Interstate 485 loop.