Police: ‘Following Too Closely’ a Leading Cause of Car Crashes Outside of Downtown New Canaan


Park and Elm Streets in New Canaan, the number one accident intersection in town. Streetview

The lead cause of motor vehicle accidents at five “hot spot” intersections outside of downtown New Canaan is motorists driving too close to the vehicles in front of them, according to police.

Following too closely “overwhelmingly” has been the number one reason for car crashes at Old Stamford and Talmadge Hill Roads, South Avenue and Farm Road and three intersections along the Route 123 corridor, at Old Norwalk Road, Lakeview Avenue and East Avenue, according to New Canaan Police Officer David Payne, the department’s lead accident reconstructionist.

As part of a data-driven effort to make local roads safer, Payne at the request of Deputy Chief John DiFederico studied three-plus years’ worth of accident data in New Canaan—some 1,600 crashes in all, he said.

“The whole purpose of this was to identify locations, so now that is done and I’ve identified some causation factors, so now the deputy chief wants to do targeted enforcement at those locations,” Payne said.

Future efforts from police could revolve around campaigns where police measure compliance with laws such as those requiring motorists to travel a reasonable distance apart from the cars in front of them, then conduct targeted enforcement and measure again at the same places, Payne said.

The single highest incidence of traffic accidents of any intersection in New Canaan is Elm and Park Streets, Payne said, where vehicles backing out of angled spaces sometimes collide with cars in the roadway, or motorists are distracted by phones, radios or eating while driving. The notorious Starbucks parking lot also contributes to fender-benders there, he said. The two other high-incidence traffic intersections in downtown New Canaan are Cherry Street at South Avenue and Cherry one block east, at Main Street, Payne said.

Payne was scheduled to present his findings to the Police Commission on Wednesday night, as a follow-up to a discussion led by DiFederico over the summer.

Police plan to continuously monitor accident data and adjust enforcement efforts accordingly, Payne said.

“This is an ongoing project, we will have accidents and locations may change, but this is just the beginning of something so that we can make sure our enforcement is in the right places,” he said.

“We cannot eliminate it entirely, but if we can reduce accidents through enforcement or education or both, that is a goal,” Payne added.

Payne in his research also looked at parking lots in New Canaan, and found that a significant proportion of crashes happen in the New Canaan High School parking lot, he said. The New Canaan YMCA also has a fair amount, followed by downtown locations including the Acme lot.

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