What I know – Speed and Injury

I was raised on a ranch in a small community where everyone knew everyone. I also was inducted into the reality of accidental death at a very early age. When I was ten years old, Gordon Collier, my friend, my crush, the most beautiful boy in the world, died while riding a dirt bike at a nearby gravel pit. What stands out in my mind is the affect on the family and on (we) the children. What I learned from that experience is there is no acceptable number, no acceptable loss. The impact of Gordon’s death on his friends, classmates, family and community was beyond measure. When we determine change and policy based on statistics, we are completely ignorant of the true impact of the issue. It simply can not be measured in numbers or dollars and cents.

I fast forward to July 27th, 2013.   I did not know that the speed limit was 50km an hour on all residential streets unless otherwise marked, nor did I give it much thought. I did not know that the law would permit speeds of 10 to 12k over the speed limit before issuing a ticket. I did not know what would happen to a person when hit at 50km an hour.

I did not know Neil, or at least I did not know his name, but I knew his face and I knew him as one of the many children who would play near the streets in my community. I was afraid for his safety as he and others would skateboard, bike and play where commuters were “commuting” with little regard for the activity around them.   Two weeks before the accident, I found him on the sidewalk rubbing a bruised ankle.  I stopped to ask if he was okay, and watched as he nodded and quickly dashed away on his skateboard.  That is the last time I saw him alive.

On a Saturday morning I received the email from my neighbour telling me there had been an accident.  A boy in front of his house had been struck by a vehicle. It was terrible and I should come.  I went, my four-year-old and dog in tow, and we walked the few blocks to the scene of the accident where my neighbour graphically detailed the accident and the the boys’ injuries.  Out of respect of the family, witnesses and friends of the boy, I will not speak of the details of the accident other than to say I am sorry, and it is unacceptable.  The vehicle hit the 12 year old and then continued to travel three-quarters of a block, up a very steep hill, until it reluctantly came to a stop.  It was unbelievable. The first words out of my mouth were, “Obviously the driver was speeding!”

I was quickly assured that in fact, what we were looking at was actually what would be expected at 50k- 60k.  I did not yet know that this was the same boy who I had helped only two weeks before.

On that day, I came to know the impact of what is seemingly slow speed, has on a human body. I also was made aware that all streets are 50k unless marked otherwise, a speed limit that would most certainly end in injury or death.

I was appalled and angry at a system that had failed, knowing that the legal speed is entirely too fast.  I got in my SUV and I went to the very street where the accident happened, and I tried…I really tried.  I “punched it”, heart pounding, trying to hit 50km through a blind intersection with a two-way stop that most ignored, up a steep hill, on a road less than four metres across, and I couldn’t do it. I failed… yet an inexperienced driver managed to accomplish what I could not, and a boy who had promise in the world, is no longer with us. And it is completely acceptable. I proceeded to drive other streets in the community and monitored my speed. Never did I comfortably exceed 30k.

I can’t blame the teenage boys who were in the SUV that struck and killed Neil as the law permitted the speed, however fast and dangerous. The 12 year old made a mistake, which children often do. The problem is in the policy, which is outdated, and unsafe.

I went home and I began to research on my computer “speed and pedestrian death”.  The information was overwhelming. I found studies and statistics supporting my observation and recommendations from the most credible resources, including the Chief Coroner of Ontario, stating that the currents speeds on residential streets were deadly.

Therefore I refer to a 12 year old boy named Neil, when I speak to lowering speed in communities because Neil defined an issue, which is the safe and acceptable speed on residential streets, and it’s not 50km/hr. It is an undebatable truth in physical law that the chance of death or serious injury does not increase in relation to speed. In fact, the chance of death increases exponentially with even a minor increase (10km/hr) in speed.

• 32 km per hour impact speeds: 5 percent death, 65 percent injured, and 30 percent uninjured
• 48 km per hour impact speeds: 45 percent death, 50 percent injured, and 5 percent uninjured
• 64 km per hour impact speeds: 85 percent death and 15 percent injured – no one uninjured.

Of course it goes beyond speed; it is understanding, education, compassion,  empathy, respect and an appreciation for a livable community, regardless of where you live.  However,  until we as a society reach a level of humanity that puts others before our selves,  we have no choice but to create law to govern behaviour.  That is the nature of law.  For this reason, I request that we reduce the speed in residential communities to save lives and improve livability and safety. There is no statistical number than can measure the loss of a life, or the impact it has on a community. I wish I could go back in time, but I can’t, and now I know… 50k is not okay on residential streets where children play and people live.

pedestrian fatality

Residential speed limit of 40 km/h has ‘merit,’ says Calgary transportation chief

Reducing the standard speed limit in residential areas to 40 km/h is an idea that has “merit” and would almost certainly save lives, the city’s transportation chief said Monday, but it would be “cumbersome” for Calgary to do without provincial legislation.Citing “very, very clear” data on pedestrian fatalities, transportation general manager Mac Logan told council it’s hard to argue with the numbers.“The faster that the vehicle’s going that hits the pedestrian, the more likely they are to be seriously injured or killed,” Logan said.

His comments came as council voted unanimously to ask the province to boost fines for speeding in residential areas, and Coun. Ray Jones inquired why the city doesn’t simply reduce speed limits, itself.

“We do have the option to do it,” Logan said. “But we have to sign it appropriately. So because the default limit is 50 km/h, we would basically have to sign every street that it’s 40 km/h, as an exception.”

That would be cost prohibitive and impractical, he added.

Prior to 2010, Logan noted, a previous city council requested that the Alberta government reduce the default speed limit to 40 km/h, “but that was rejected by the province.”

Coun. Richard Pootmans said there have already been four pedestrians killed this year in Calgary and another 162 struck non-fatally, and speed makes all the difference between life and death.

“If you’re driving at 30 km/h, there is a five per cent likelihood of a pedestrian fatality,” he said, citing data from the World Health Organization. “If you’re driving at 48 km/h, there’s a 45 per cent likelihood of a pedestrian fatality.”

Calgary saw an average of 508 pedestrians struck each year from 2007 to 2011, according to police data.

Nine pedestrians were killed on city streets in 2013, while 11 died in 2012 and six in 2011.

 

Metro Original Article – http://metronews.ca/news/calgary/1031417/residential-speed-limit-of-40-kmh-has-merit-says-calgary-transportation-chief/#

A Health Impact Assessment of a Proposed Bill to Decrease Traffic Speed Limits on Local Roads in Massachusetts (U.S.A.)

Decreasing traffic speeds increases the amount of time drivers have to react to road hazards, potentially averting collisions, and makes crashes that do happen less severe. Boston’s regional planning agency, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), conducted a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) that examined the potential health impacts of a proposed bill in the state legislature to lower the default speed limits on local roads from 30 miles per hour (mph) to 25 mph. The aim was to reduce vehicle speeds on local roads to a limit that is safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and children. The passage of this proposed legislation could have had far-reaching and potentially important public health impacts. Lower default speed limits may prevent around 18 fatalities and 1200 serious injuries to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians each year, as well as promote active transportation by making local roads feel more hospitable to cyclists and pedestrians. While a lower speed limit would increase congestion and slightly worsen air quality, the benefits outweigh the costs from both a health and economic perspective and would save the state approximately $62 million annually from prevented fatalities and injuries.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4210978/ 

Keywords: health impact assessment, speed limits, crashes, injury prevention, air pollution, physical activity, monetization

 

Slowing Down Will Get You Through a Traffic Jam Faster

Slowing Down Will Get You Through a Traffic Jam Faster

Measures to Minimize Bottlenecks Emphasize the Importance of Cutting Your Speed

 Article borrowed from The Wall Street Journal
Written by

When traffic thickens on freeways, drivers often make decisions that worsen conditions. They speed up when they should slow down. They change lanes when they should stay put. They squeeze together when they should spread out.

Jo Craven McGinty
Jo Craven McGinty

In effect, they leave no room to react. When something unexpected occurs, it leads to sudden braking, and what might have been a manageable slowdown becomes a miserable crawl or, worse, traffic grinds to a standstill.

Once the flow of traffic is disrupted, the shock wave ripples backward, with driver after driver braking. Instead of progressing smoothly, traffic rapidly queues.

“Everyone is selfish and wants maximal travel time versus optimal time for everyone,” said Hesham Rakha, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech. “By being selfish, you make the system worse.”

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 40% of all congestion nationwide can be attributed to recurring bottlenecks. The problem cost the country $78 billion last year in wasted time and fuel, according to INRIX, a company that studies the economic and environmental costs of congestion.

Bottlenecks can’t be entirely eliminated, but they can be minimized. Solutions include variable speed limits that change in response to congestion, metered on-ramps that use traffic signals to gradually feed drivers onto freeways, and zipper merges which, when a lane is about to end, instruct drivers to use all lanes until a designated point then take turns merging.

Essentially, the approaches direct drivers to go slower in order to go faster.

“The intuition is if you are more aggressive, you will get to your destination faster,” Mr. Rakha said. “Studies have shown that if you are less aggressive, you’ll get there faster.”

Traffic engineers measure the capacity of a freeway by the number of vehicles per lane per hour. Under normal conditions, with traffic flowing freely, capacity is about 2,000 vehicles per lane per hour, according to Bernard J. Arseneau, director of traffic management systems for Omaha, Neb.-based HDR Inc.

When traffic begins to slow, capacity initially increases because the density makes up for the reduced speed, and more of the tightly packed vehicles pass through. The benefit peaks at around 45 mph with about 2,200 vehicles per lane per hour. But at maximum volume, the system is vulnerable.

“When you get to that level, it doesn’t take much to mess things up,” Mr. Arseneau said. “Any disruption is likely to break down traffic.”

ENLARGE

Ideally, drivers should maintain a steady slower speed, avoid unnecessary lane changes, which induce braking, and lengthen the gaps between vehicles to allow for adjustments. But left to their own devices, drivers are more likely to jockey for position. Some change lanes or race forward to cut in line. Others counter by tailgating or straddling lanes.

Mr. Rakha compares it to pouring sand through a funnel. “If you pour sand suddenly, not as much goes through as if you pour exactly the amount the funnel needs,” Mr. Rakha said. “There is more throughput by pouring less into the funnel.”

Once freeway traffic drops below 45 mph, vehicles begin to queue, and capacity drops to about 1,600 vehicles per lane per hour. The reduction of 400 to 600 cars per lane per hour is significant.

“You end up with stop-and-go congestion,” Mr. Arseneau said.

To help drivers make better choices, state departments of transportation employ various techniques.

Minnesota uses the zipper merge, often in work zones when a lane is dropped, and the technique is taught in the state’s drivers education manual. Zippering doesn’t hasten traffic, but it makes merging more orderly, and it significantly reduces queue lengths.

“The length of the backup gets reduced by up to 40%,” said Ken E. Johnson, a traffic engineer with the Minnesota Transportation Department.

Variable speed limits slow vehicles before they begin to queue. Georgia, for example, recently implemented variable speeds on I-285 in Atlanta to reduce congestion. There, depending on road conditions, the speed, posted on electronic signs, may vary from 35 mph to 65 mph.

Ramp meters keep freeway traffic moving by controlling the volume of merging traffic. In 2001, Minnesota turned off 430 ramp meters for six weeks and studied the effect. Among other things, the researchers found that freeway volume decreased by 9% and travel times increased by 22%.

“We know if we can delay congestion from occurring and slow traffic down, that will prolong the free flow and get more vehicles through,” Mr. Arseneau said. “You want to make sure you keep that traffic flowing as long you as can.”

It is a tall order that the engineers acknowledge is counterintuitive.

“We’re telling them to slow down to reach their destination faster,” Mr. Rakha said. “It’ll be hard for the driver to recognize that.”

Write to Jo Craven McGinty at Jo.McGinty@wsj.com

More cities are lowering traffic speed limits, but does it actually make roads safer?

More cities are lowering traffic speed limits, but does it actually make roads safer?

TOM BABIN, CALGARY HERALD

More from Tom Babin, Calgary Herald – 

http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/more-cities-are-lowering-speed-limits-but-does-it-actually-make-roads-safer

Published on: July 10, 2014 – Last Updated: November 26, 2014 11:08 AM MST

child biking traffic safety

After the 12-year-old boy in her neighbourhood was killed by a sport-utility vehicle, Jodi Morel started to do the math.

And tragic mathematics it was. As a member of the traffic committee in her Calgary neighbourhood of Mount Royal, Morel was called to the scene of the collision. She learned the driver was not speeding, but the vehicle was on a street with a 50 km/h speed limit and still had enough force to kill.

“A witness walked me through the scene,” she recalls about that tragic case. “My response was that ‘(The driver) must have been speeding.’ But it was completely legal. In this case, nobody did anything wrong.”

Later, Morel found research showing how deadly a vehicle becomes the faster it is moving, like in the chart below.

Being hit by a slower moving vehicle increases the chance of survival. 

While as many as nine out of 10 pedestrians hit at 20 km/h will survive, for example, at 60 km/h — a speed Morel figures is close enough to the speed limit that few speeding tickets would be issued — as many as 90 per cent will die.

To Morel, this added up to a no-brainer conclusion. One that many jurisdictions around the world are also arriving at: If we want to save lives on city streets, lower speed limits. She subsequently started a campaign to do just that, called Slow Down YYC (on Twitter here)

Dale Calkins, a cycling advocate in Calgary, has similar ideas. He works with 30 For Sunnyside, a group urging 30 km/h speed limits in that community rather than the current default limit of 50 km/h because he think lower speeds is one way to make neighbourhood life safer for pedestrians and cyclists

“We are lacking a conversation on road safety,” he says. “There are a lot of things we should be talking about, and this is one of them.”

Many communities in Calgary struggle to control traffic speed

There are plenty of other people talking about the idea too. Many jurisdictions around the world are reducing speed limits in a bid to reduce the number of automobile deaths. New York City is in the midst of lowering its speed limit to 25 mph (40 km/h) from 30 mph. London drops to 20 mph (32 km/h) on July 20. San Francisco is looking at the same. Even Airdrie has a default speed limit of 30 km/h on residential roads. (Notwithstanding the B.C. government’s recent decision to raise speed limits on a few highways).

While the idea makes intuitive sense — slower-moving vehicles equate to less carnage on the human body — there’s the bigger question: Does it actually work? Do lower speeds make roads safer?

The answer seems to be a resounding yes, albeit with a few caveats. Dr. Don Voaklander, a professor in the school of public policy at the University of Alberta, says there are plenty of studies that show slower moving vehicles not only reduce fatalities, but result in fewer accidents as well. He cited one study that found every one per cent reduction in speed resulted in a two per cent reduction in traffic incidents.

“Reduced speeds not only reduce the severity of (collisions), slower speeds also mean drivers can brake and stop in shorter distances,” Voaklander said. “Speed does kill.”

Those caveats, however, are big ones. There’s no guarantee drivers will blindly obey reduced speed limits. Speeding is a problem today, even with a 50 km/h limit. So Voaklander says enforcement of those limits is key, especially on those wide suburban residential roads in which drivers feel safe going fast.

So if lower speed limits are such a no-brainer for safety (and a host of other reasons, from improved street life to reduced pollution), why isn’t it being done? In Calgary, there are jurisdictional  considerations — a blanket change to default limits in Calgary would require a change by the provincial government — but reducing speed limits is rarely supported by drivers. Despite speed being cited as a problem in some polls by 70 to 80 per cent of community members, there’s a lack of both political and societal will to change them. Nobody, it seems, wants their commute slowed, and such debates tend to pit commuting voters against voters living in those communities being driven through.

A study in 2006 by the OECD into speed management suggested a reason for this is psychology of drivers. Basically, it said drivers rarely think of themselves as doing something risky, even when we’re aware of the dangers of driving. Here’s an excerpt from that report:

The benefits and disadvantages of lower speeds are not perceived in the same manner by individuals and by the community as a whole. The societal consequences of road accidents are well known, and excessive speed is a major contributing factor. However, for an individual driver, the risk of being involved in an accident is relatively small and the driver therefore rarely experiences the worst safety consequences of excessive speed. The more journeys a driver completes successfully at a higher speed, the more the notion that high speeds are safe is reinforced….This contradiction between societal and individual consequences makes it a challenge to create sound speed management.

Voaklander had a more simple reason for the rejection of the idea: “Everybody thinks they’re a great driver,” he says. “We have a sense that we’re in this contained, safe (state). That we’re omnipotent”

So how is that sentiment combated? Voaklander says just as important as enforcement is education about the dangers of speeding and the benefits of the reductions. It can be a slow process, but it may be the only solution.

Few people think reduced speed limits are a panacea. But paired with education, traffic calming initiatives and enforcement, they can help make roads safer. Public sentiment seems to be swinging in that direction. Voaklander pointed to a recent plebiscite in Morinville, north of Edmonton, in which residents voted to keep photo radar because of concerns about safety, a result he wouldn’t have expected in the past, when we were more blase about traffic injuries.

Jodi Morel, for one, vows to keep raising the issue in memory of the boy killed in her neighbourhood.

“I find it surprising that people don’t understand this idea. The amount of time (a driver would save with a higher speed limit) isn’t worth the safety of somebody else,” she says. “I think if they understand that people could get killed, they might change their mind.”

 Leave a comment below or follow me on Twitter, Google Plus,or Facebook, or drop me a line via email me at tbabin@calgaryherald.com.

NYC Allowed to Cut Speed Limit to 25 MPH to Lower Traffic Deaths

Bloomberg Post – link here

A bill that would allow New York City to lower its speed limit to 25 miles per hour was approved by the state legislature.

The measure, backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, would reduce the limit in most areas from 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour and was passed yesterday. More than 250 people are killed and almost 4,000 seriously injured in city traffic crashes each year, according to a memo by the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jeffrey Klein, a Bronx Democrat.

“Slowing down by even five miles per hour is going to save lives that otherwise could have been lost in senseless traffic accidents,” Klein said in an e-mailed statement.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokeswoman for Governor Andrew Cuomo, declined to comment on the measure.

De Blasio, 53, took office in January as the first Democrat to lead the metropolis in two decades. Lowering the limit is a key component of his Vision Zero plan to end pedestrian traffic deaths, which also includes public outreach and enhanced police enforcement. In April, the legislature approved his plan to add 120 speed cameras in school zones.

Lowering the limit to 25 mph would reduce the chance of fatalities in accidents involving pedestrians to 10 percent from 20 percent, the memo said.

Vision Zero is modeled on a program in Sweden, where a law adopted by the parliament in 1997 sets the goal for traffic fatalities at zero. Since its adoption, traffic engineers have reworked roadways to limit the danger of human error and traffic fatalities have been cut in half, the New York Times reported last month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Freeman Klopott in Albany at fklopott@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman atsmerelman@bloomberg.net Stacie Sherman