December 19, 2017

Speeding is the New Drunk Driving Says National Transportation Safety Board

Police chased the fleeing car through the streets of the city
When Dr. Perry Kendall, the Chief Medical Health Officer of British Columbia wrote
Where the Rubber Hits the Road” he aimed to highlight the high amount of deaths and disability caused in British Columbia due to crashes, on average about 280 deaths and 79,000 injuries. Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about these concerns, and the shocking fact that in 2011, 45.7 per cent of all injuries occurred to vulnerable road users, those using the street without a protective steel shell. Indeed the deaths of vulnerable road users has increased in British Columbia, from 31.7 per cent of all road deaths in 2009 to 34.9 per cent of all road deaths in 2011.
Dr. Kendall and international experts identify three main reasons for road crashes and deaths~road design, driver behaviour, and speed. It is well-known that reducing vehicle speed saves lives, as has been proven in Great Britain where municipalities are adopting the policy that “20 is plenty”  and  lowering road speeds to 20 miles per hour or 32 kilometers per hour. Now a study from the National Transportation Safety Board
as reported in says that “Researchers have actually underestimated how often speed is a factor in fatal crashes, according to a summary of the report, which will be released in full in coming weeks. That’s significant, considering that speed is already one of the most widely reported causes of deadly crashes. In 2015, for example, it was identified as a factor in roughly as many traffic deaths (9,557) as alcohol (9,306) or people not wearing seat belts (9,874).”
In its news release, the National Transportation Safety Board linked speeding to 112,580 highway crash fatalities in the United States between 2005-2014. This number is close to the number of people who died in alcohol-related crashes in the same time period. That number was 112,948. Noting that speeding has few “negative social consequences” compared to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the study acknowledges that speeding is “common driving behaviour“.

You can’t tackle our rising epidemic of roadway deaths without tackling speeding,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt, “and you can’t tackle speeding without the most current research. Speed kills. This study examines how it kills and what actions can be taken to save lives and prevent speeding-related crashes.”

While issuing recommendations to various governmental bodies, the National Transportation Safety Board also recommended that automated speed enforcement be universally adopted in all states and actively used as a counter measure. There is also an opportunity for Complete Streets and Vision Zero advocates to insist on better road design so that vehicles cannot go faster than the posted speed, and a rethink of the current speeds within municipalities, as the posted speeds often encourage drivers to go faster through residential streets. Are these really supposed to be driven at 50 kilometers an hour? As Russ Martin of the Governors Highway Safety Association observed speed is “a traffic safety problem on par with drunk driving, and we hope that can dedicate resources to preventing speeding the same way we do that for drunk driving.”


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  1. I always find it odd that radio stations will warn listeners about where speed traps are located, but they wouldn’t dream (or dare) warn where the Counterattack road checks are. They’re basically aiding criminal behaviour.

  2. I thought texting was the new big thing to worry about.
    The province and cities need to work on making speed limits a lot more reasonable. As is they’re pretty daft. When traffic levels are low and conditions are good, most freeways are reasonably safe at much higher speeds.
    When it’s dark, rainy and busy, then limits should be much lower. Limits currently cause all sorts of stupid behaviour, and setting them lower as a blanket rule will only increase the stupid.
    Variable speed limits should be common place rather than the exception.

      1. Yet in the real world, Burrard Bridge has been in existence for about 31,000 higher-speed, low-traffic, non-fatal overnights.

    1. RCMP doesn’t want to enforce one set of speed limits per location. You think they want to enforce two or more depending on time of day, weather conditions, or phase of the moon? If it’s very simply and clearly applied (i.e., a definable school zone with set times), then variable speed limits are at least possible. Expecting speed enforcement with too many variables – even very few – is expecting too much.
      Until somebody figures out how to remotely cap maximum vehicle speeds or motor RPM’s, humans actively operating metal and plastic boxes capable of going 200 km/hr+ will sometimes act willfully and/or carelessly reckless and kill people. We can’t both have cars and death-free streets. Clearly we’re choosing a lot of death in exchange for our perceived mobility, convenience, and “freedom”.

      1. The RCMP might not want to different fines to different folks … but speed cameras sure can handle the job.
        Also … if Finland can figure out how to tie tickets to income, it doesn’t seem like it should be too hard to gear tickets to conditions/etc.

        1. Tying ticket amounts to income would be fantastic, but beware any sentence that starts with, “If Finland/Sweden/Norway/Iceland can do it…”. Cameras and enforcement are not technically difficult to set up. But legally and logistically they are near impossible to maintain within our current political and legal framework. And to say nothing of motorists’ entitlement; whole voting armies people who are sure they’ve done nothing wrong and shouldn’t be “punished” with enforcement.
          I’m not a big proponent of the ‘autonomous vehicles will save us all’ sentiment, but in this case, handing over control of cars to computers WILL save a lot of death and misery. Until then all responsible agencies will do is try and minimize the damage.

        1. Engine governors limit rpm, and are common. Vehicle speed governors are common on European vehicles, as you note. One of my vehicles had the speed governor set lower than the speed the vehicle could attain as I didn’t want the (more expensive) optional tires, which had a higher speed rating. It was all adjustable in software.
          It would be straightforward to have vehicle speed governors set, and which then allowed insurance discounts.
          Heavy trucks often have speed governors installed as part of fleet management practices.

  3. I’ve always been curious about how badly painted the lanes are in the lower mainland, in over thirty years of living here it’s only gotten worse. In a city of many merges, it seems very strange.

    1. The government banned oil based paints. The water based stuff doesn’t work as well. That’s why in the last 3 or so years, road markings have gotten much worse.
      The other alternative thermoplastic, which is a bit proud of the road surface. It’s provides way better visibility, but is also much more expensive and labour intensive.

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