The retail hub of the area saw a significant decrease in the number of motor vehicle accidents during the 2013 holiday season.
Accidents from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 last year on Commercial Drive were down 38 percent from the same time period in 2012. There were 46 accidents in 2013 compared to 74 in 2012, according to the New Hartford Police Department.
And while officials can't say a new traffic light at the entrance near Panera Bread slowed the number of accidents, they do believe it is helping traffic flow more smoothly.
"The traffic is flowing through there with no issues," New Hartford Highway Superintendent Rick Sherman said. "The signal is working in conjunction with the other one in front of Consumer Square, so the flow of traffic moving through there is much smoother."
The light was installed in late October, staving off the illegal left-hand turn offenders.
"Everybody who was making illegal turns has stopped," Sherman said.
The intersection near Panera Bread has been cited as having an above-average concentration of accidents, according to a recent state Department of Transportation report. In a three-year span, there were six accidents due to drivers not using appropriate signals.
Consumer Square's developer, Benderson Development Co. LLC, and the town of New Hartford recently were involved in a lawsuit regarding the intersection. In 2009, a woman riding her motorcycle on Commercial Drive was hit when a driver made an illegal left turn there.
The worst area for accidents isn't there, however.
"The majority of our accidents are in the area of Bremer's Liquors," New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra said.
Other officials and frequent visitors to the area have noticed a difference they say is due to the traffic signal.
Holland Patent resident Sophie Kwiatkowski, who attends classes at Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES in New Hartford and recently was at Panera Bread, said she likes the new configuration.
"I like that you can go left now," she said. "It's nice now that it's actually legal."
Deerfield resident Jim Driscoll, a frequent visitor to Consumer Square, said he used to see motor vehicle accidents at the intersection often, but the light seems to have alleviated the situation.
"So far we haven't seen anyone bop anybody," he said.
The light also was installed to help with the flow of traffic within Consumer Square, which previously had one light that allowed traffic to turn left or right onto Commercial Drive, congesting the shopping center.
"I think people are getting used to going out of Consumer Square (at the new light)," Town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski said.
The timing of the series of lights, however, is a bit contested.
Page 2 of 2 - While Sherman maintains he has noticed the light at Panera Bread and the main entrance to Consumer Square work in conjunction with one another, Driscoll said motorists are speeding to make the light from Henderson Street — just north of the new light.
"Because they're not timed right, you'll get all three," he said of the light from Henderson to the main entrance at Consumer Square.
Overall, the shopping center's developer is pleased with the results.
"We think it's a great improvement in the access to Consumer Square," said James Boglioli, the right-to-build director for Benderson's northeast division. "It's been much safer."
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