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 governing.com 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.”