Crash course on the avenue of death and destruction

Turn signal: Bright idea or a dim bulb?
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

The so-called Avenue of Death and Destruction is still living up to at least part of its name.

An astounding nine crashes were reported at the problem intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Hoyt Street between April 1 and May 4 — the same corner where a bystander was killed in October, 2006, after two cars collided.

“It’s really troubling to think about this treacherous spot,” said Margaret Cusack, president of the Hoyt Street Association. “I do not walk at that corner because I don’t trust it.”

Some of the smash-ups sent automobiles careening onto the sidewalk — a harrowing sight — but no bystanders were injured in the latest crashes, and there have been no fatalities among drivers or passengers either, according to the Department of Transportation.

The agency said that it is analyzing the accident reports and did not yet have an explanation for the burst of collisions — though the department said that on at least two occasions in early May, the streetlight malfunctioned.

Cusack, who witnessed the aftermath of one recent pileup, said the signal was out of order at the time of that crash. And Borough President Markowitz’s police liaison, Leslie Lewis, told The Brooklyn Paper that he’d received complaints from other people about glitches at that light.

If the misfiring turn signal is not strictly to blame, there are other theories, including the pervasive opinion that impatient eastbound drivers on Atlantic Avenue are to blame.

Currently, westbound drivers on Atlantic Avenue get the green before eastbound cars, which is designed to allow people to safely make a left turn onto Hoyt Street. In a cruel twist, many Boerum Hill residents think this head start prompts eastbound drivers to conclude their light is green, too — though this is hardly the only intersection in the city where one direction gets a “go” signal first.

“When the westbound light lights, the people eastbound are stopped at a red light. They see the other direction driving, so they’re losing patience. They say, ‘We’re going, too’ and they smack into the cars making a left-hand turn,” said Lewis, also a member of the Boerum Hill Association.

As a response to the surge in crashes, the Transportation Department said it would install a “Wait for green signal” sign to restrain eastbound drivers on Atlantic Avenue from peeling through the intersection.

The pattern of accidents revived memories of the 2006 crash when a car struck by another vehicle killed a 75-year-old man socializing with friends in front of a bodega on the southeast corner and injured another pedestrian.

Since then, the Department of Transportation has instituted other changes to reduce the high rate of accidents, incluging installing a turn signal at the troublesome intersection.

The department says its efforts have been largely successful.

“[Since then], accident rates subsequently dropped by nearly a third from the previous year, and there have been no fatalities or pedestrian injuries in that time,” said agency spokesman Seth Solomonow.

He said that in 2007, there were 31 reported accidents at the intersection of Hoyt Street and Atlantic Avenue, a figure that dropped to 21 in 2008. Through May 13 of this year, there have been 12 accidents.

The stretch of Atlantic Avenue between Hicks Street and Flatbush Avenue got its nickname, “The Avenue of Death and Destruction,” after a 2006 investigation in The Brooklyn Paper discovered that there had been 583 accidents on the strip between Jan. 1, 2005 and Oct. 15, 2006.