How Many Deaths Does it Take?

Posted: January 26, 2010 by Matthew Casey in Articles, Commentaries
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In  Toronto fourteen pedestrians have been killed in the last month in motor vehicle/pedestrian accidents.  These numbers are shocking  as that works out to be about two people per day being struck and killed by a vehicle in the city.   Most of these accidents occurred at intersections or marked crosswalks where the pedestrian had the right of way.  But as is plainly obvious, in the battle between human and car, the car will always win most of the time.

Bill Saundercook, a city councilor, is  fighting to have city speed limits reduced by ten kilometers per hour.  Currently in most zones outside of the downtown the speed limits are about 60 km/h.  In my opinion this is far too fast for streets that also channel a lot of pedestrians.  It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that the faster a vehicle is traveling the more likely the pedestrian being struck is going to die.  These speeds lead to decreased time for drivers to react to an obstacle that suddenly appears in front of them.

According to a study conducted by NRMA Insurance, risks of death or injury double when motorists violate a speed limit of 60 km/h by a mere 5 km/h faster than the posted limit.  If a motorist travels at 10 km/h above that posted limit the chances of death or injury jumps to an astounding four times the normal rate of a speed at 60 km/h.  In most cases, motorists tend to believe that they can go at least 10 km/h faster than the limit and be alright.  The city should enforce slower limits and have a zero tolerance for even small violations of the limit.

Another study conducted by the province of Quebec found that the average reaction time to apply the brakes of a car at 60 km/h is 1.3 seconds. If the motorist was to spot a pedestrian at 32 metres away, the car will have traveled at least 21.7 meters before the brakes are even applied.  The vehicle will travel a further 18.9 meters before coming to a complete stop.  The total stopping distance at this speed is 40.6 meters making it impossible for a motorist to stop in time before colliding with the person.

The study also looked at a posted speed limit of 50 km/h and found that the reaction time is still 1.3 seconds to apply the brakes. When  a pedestrian is spotted at 32 meters away, the car will have traveled 18.1 meters in the time before the brakes are applied, and it will travel a further 13.1 meters before reaching a full stop.  The total stopping distance is 31.2 meters, making it possible to stop before hitting the pedestrian. So the obvious point here is that slower is safer.  The study even points out that driving a car at 10 km/h above the limit saves the motorist a mere four minutes off of their total trip time.   So speeding is not going to help a motorist in any way.  The only thing it will do is increase the odds of a fatal accident occurring.

If these facts are not enough to convince City Hall that speed limits need to be reduced in the outskirts of the city, then the 14 deaths this month should be more than enough proof.  Hopefully the government will make a decision on lowering speed limits and enforcing them properly in a timely manner before another life is  lost in these needless accidents.

—Matthew Casey

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