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A rear-end collision at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, at Lake Street and Mass. Ave. was the most recent of a half-dozen two-car crashes at Arlington intersections within an eight-day period.

Although two injuries were reported for the six crashes, fortunately, only one driver needed medical attention, and her injury did not appear to be grave.

Perhaps surprisingly, each of the six crashes was caused by a different type of operator error.

Locations and other details are in the log excerpts below. Added to each entry are comments from Arlington Police Department spokesman Capt. Richard Flynn on the error that caused each crash and how it could have been avoided. Following the entries are his general remarks on how best to achieve intersection safety.

The following exerpts are based on selected Arlington Police Department logs from Nov. 28 through Dec. 5, 2023. No arrests were reported.

Tuesday, Nov. 28
1:41 p.m. – Accident without Injury. Police were alerted to a two-car accident at Concord Turnpike and Pleasant Street. A vehicle with New Hampshire license plates traveling south on Pleasant Street was struck by another vehicle attempting to make a left turn onto Concord Turnpike on the way to Route 2 West. The vehicle positions made it clear that the second vehicle had interfered with oncoming traffic while attempting to turn, resulting in a crash. The offending driver, a Methuen resident, was cited for failure to yield.

Flynn commented that failure to yield is one of the most common mistakes at intersections. When turning across an oncoming lane, a driver becomes responsible for any collision that may result; no excuses based on how others drove will be accepted by the police.

5:44 p.m. – Accident with Injury. Police responded to a two-car accident at the intersection of Concord Turnpike and Park Avenue. A car driven by a woman heading south on Park Avenue was struck in the front hood area by a vehicle traveling west on Concord Turnpike that lost control after running a red light. The errant vehicle, driven by a Winchester resident, proceeded to crash into a concrete wall causing massive damage to the car's front end, which then issued large plumes of smoke. The driver, complaining of lower-body pain, was helped out of the car. After speaking with officers and declining medical help, he received a red-light citation.

Flynn commented that drivers on an access road leading to a freeway, parkway or turnpike might drive too fast and fail to expect traffic lights. He stressed that such drivers also easily can lose concentration and then prematurely commence freeway driving mode. He also stressed that drivers must discipline themselves not to allow distractions that could keep them from noticing possible intersections and that they particularly should avoid such activities as “checking phone messages, browsing newspapers or applying makeup in the mirror.”

Wednesday Nov. 29
11:14 a.m. – Accident without Injury. Police were called to a two-car accident at Rawson and Warren streets. A vehicle driven by an Arlington woman was struck (by a vehicle going northbound on Warren Street) after allegedly ignoring a stop sign. Although the woman claimed to have looked both ways before entering Warren Street, each driver claimed never to have glimpsed the other's car;  a witness on the scene was able to confirm that the woman had ignored or not seen the stop sign. The woman received a citation for failure to yield at a stop sign.

Flynn commented that any intersection not governed by traffic lights may have stop signs -- and that drivers alway should look for them. If you “just blow through one,” later claiming you didn't see it will not prevent you from getting a citation. Approaching any intersection should be a cue for alertness; drivers should as a matter of course look for lights or signage telling them what to do.

4:48 p.m. – Accident without Injury. Police were called to the scene of a two-car crash at Park and Florence avenues. A junior operator traveling with his stepfather entered the intersection from Park Avenue southbound, believing he had a yellow light. Meanwhile, a second car had entered the intersection, its male driver also believing that his light was also “cycling to yellow.” A glancing crash ensued. The youth's airbag deployed, but no one was hurt. After speaking with the drivers, and as well as with a witness who seemed to support both stories, the officers were unable to assign fault; it was deemed a “jump ball” and no citations were issued.

Flynn commented that drivers who think they have a yellow light should not assume that other drivers approaching from the sides won't also “see” a yellow light. He especially urged that drivers remember that yellow means to slow down. “If you find yourself speeding up instead,” he said, “you're driving dangerously.” He later added, “Try to make eye contact with other drivers heading your way, especially from a side angle.”

Monday, Dec. 4
4:24 p.m. – Accident without Injury, Unlicensed Operator. Police responded to a reported two-car crash at Lake Street and Mass. Ave. A southbound vehicle making a right turn onto Lake was suddenly cut off by another vehicle making the same turn but from the center lane. The first car, driven by an Arlington resident with several children aboard, suffered damage to a bumper but incurred no harm to occupants. When police, using a translation app, interviewed the second driver, a Spanish-speaking Milford resident, it emerged that he had no driver's license. Instead of being arrested, he received both a failure to yield citation and a criminal complaint notification for driving unlicensed and is to appear in court.

Flynn commented that cars in the right lane own the right of way to make a right turn, so trying to cut across from the center lane is asking for trouble. “Much better is to realize [immediately that] you've made a mistake and not even to try turning from the wrong lane. Instead, continue through to the next block and find a safe way to where you're going. If you're on Mass. Ave., don't even think about doing a U- turn to double back. It's illegal.”

Tuesday, Dec. 5
4:37 p.m. – Accident with Injury. Police responded to a two-car accident at  Brattle Street and Mass. Ave. in which a female 75-year-old Lowell resident drove her red Toyota into the rear end of a Blue Rivian electric truck with New Hampshire plates that was waiting at a red light. The woman, who had been taking two kittens to a veterinarian, was found by officers still seated in her car, conscious, alert and without obvious external injuries -- but acknowledging that she had no memory of the moments leading up to the impact. The woman agreed to be taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

Police served her with a citation for following too closely and also informed her they would be filing an “immediate threat” order with the Registry of Motor Vehicles, which, pending review, might ultimately cause permanent loss of her license. The woman's car, having sustained heavy front-end damage, was towed, as was the rear-damaged truck. Animal control officers carefully took custody of the kittens.

Flynn commented that the magnitude of the crash suggested loss of control, gross inattention or both -- and restated the need for drivers to ignore distractions (such as the kittens might have provided in this case) and, again, to keep constant awareness of what's on the road.

He then offered general thoughts about traffic safety. “If people would follow simple rules and recommended practices, there would be relatively few problems. Signs and traffic light systems are optimized for safety. Problems may occur if signage and lighting systems fail, but those failures are rare. Solar glare and bad weather conditions may make negotiating intersections harder, but if drivers adjust sensibly to conditions, there should be fewer problems.

"Nearly all accidents at intersections are due to driver impatience, poor judgment and lack of regard for others who need to share the space. Safety at intersections requires cooperation from everyone: drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Everyone should be concerned [not only] for their own safety, but also for that of everyone around them.

“The important thing to remember when approaching an intersection is to look for signage and traffic lights and follow them. Even more important is to stay alert. Any intersection is potentially dangerous: you don't know what's in store for you when you get there. Drivers need to train themselves to become alert automatically whenever they approach an intersection -- and then to keep their eyes open.”

Nov. 30, 2023: Police blotter Nov. 21-28: Another female pedestrian struck in crosswalk in less than two weeks


This column by YourArlington volunteer writer Chris Wilbur was published Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, based on information from Arlington Police Department daily logs and explanations from APD spokesman Capt. Richard Flynn.