Jumping off the highway to find that mythical shortcut around a traffic jam is an old tradition. But GPS apps give more people more options for driving through towns and neighborhoods and police say those cut through commuters take, drive up crash rates.
The NBC Boston Investigators reviewed Massachusetts Department of Transportation crash data for communities in and along Route 128 to find out which have the highest rates of crashes considering population.
Quincy police deal with both commuters jumping off the Southeast Expressway to avoid traffic, and cutting through from Dorchester to other South Shore towns.
“The first option was the expressway, that’s jammed up. The second alternative was to go through the city of Quincy, and that’s now jammed up, and now they’re looking for another way,” said Quincy police Lt. Daniel Minton, a patrol supervisor.
Quincy ranked fourth out of the 29 cities and towns NBC Boston Investigators reviewed.
To deal with the extra drivers, the city has stepped up patrols using a grant, has written more than 2,000 tickets a year recently warning drivers for not stopping for pedestrians, and has improved a number of intersections and traffic signals to improve flow.
"The pedestrian accidents are down in this area, there’s no doubt about that,” Minton said.
The community with the top rate is Lynn, which had 29.4 crashes per 1,000 people.
The rest of the top 10 are:
- Woburn, 26.7
- Burlington, 26.1
- Quincy, 23.8
- Chelsea, 23.4
- Dedham, 21.7
- Waltham, 21.6
- Lexington, 21.3
- Saugus, 19.4
- Newton, 19.2
Milton, which came in 11th, feels the effect as well.
Lt. Kevin Foley of Milton police said his town of about 27,000 sees crashes because of people jumping off the Expressway.
“They get off here, they flood through East Milton Square and they think they’re bypassing a mile or two of traffic by getting off here and racing up there,” Foley said, pointing to the Granite Avenue exit.
People also cut through Milton from Boston, often on Route 28, to either get to Interstate 93, to Braintree and Route 3, or to other towns south, like Randolph.
Late last month, a crash on Route 28 during rush hour killed one person and injured four others.
“That’s the cut through effect that Milton has,” he said.
GPS apps like Waze have enabled drivers to see ahead on their commute, and to change their route to get around traffic or avoid crashes.
Police said those apps, while not to blame, have led to more cut through commuters.
“If Waze is telling you there’s an accident at the Milton exchange, and you’re hoping that you’re going to be able to go and jump back on at Quincy bypass that,” Minton said.
NBC Boston reached out to Waze for comment, and they did not respond.