Reduced Speed is Not the Answer

Yesterday on talk radio, some research body, suggested 30 km/h speed limits within the city. Standard limit is 50 km/h and 40 km/h at school zones normally. Some streets suggest 30km/h (often labelled with Turtles) to protect young children in the area.

One caller indicated that 30km/h is a high rev. level of first gear, before it gears up to 2nd. This means the engine is working harder than when it advances to 2nd at a lower rev. So going slower will increase engine wear and fuel consumption. Ah, but that’s not the argument, the argument is to save lives, which I cannot disagree with, because every life is worth saving, (perhaps not mass murderers, but you know what I mean) and being hit by a car doing 30km/h will hurt less than one doing 50km/h presumably.

Research also indicates that most collisions by car, with other cars, bikes, motorcyles, or pedestrians, is not through speeding, but by distraction. Distraction from two parties multiplies this probability. Pedestrians are more often than motorists staring at a smart(dumb)phone. This means they are not aware of their surroundings beyond a peripheral observance. They will very infrequently look up if they hear something or bump into a person or object. Bumping into a moving vehicle, of any size will do more than grab their attention, and too late. Yes, many motorists do the same, staring at their crotch more than their windshield or mirrors, and thus not seeing other vehicles or pedestrians as their eyes are pointed down.

Let’s call a spade a spade here, distraction is impairment. Alcohol, Fatigue, Phones, other devices, weather, and sunlight can all be impairment. We have MADD for inebriated motorists despite calling them drunk drivers, that term should never exist. A driver is never drunk, a motorist can be. Driver implies skill, and being impaired negates that skill, so they are not driving, and they are not drivers. There is a Fatigue impairment PSA on the radio from time to time. There are many anti-phone awareness ads and announcements on TV, radio, and print, but weather is never ever considered. I’ll ask the question, would you feel more comfortable with a clean car and a person staring at you from that car, than a rolling snowbank with a hand swipe¬† on the window for them to see out of? If I told you the second car was sober, and the first was drunk, would your answer change?

If you drive east in the morning and west in the evening, and the sun is shining directly at you, how many cars could you completely identify by colour, make, and plate? How many did you see before they applied the brakes? How many were actually intelligent enough to put lights on, so you wouldn’t hit them? Light does two things, it illuminates, and it obscures, and obscuring is a distraction because you cannot see well enough to know how close a person or vehicle is if all you see is light and shadows. Having your lights on increases the ability to see you, which has the benefit of being hit with a far lesser likelihood. Real drivers use lights 24/7/365.25. Motorists never locate the switch.

Back to speed. Most speeds are determined by the traffic around you, and the width of the lanes. Traveling south on Hwy 400 with wide lanes is often 120km/h or more in light traffic, whereas Hwy 401 with narrower lanes through Toronto is often just barely above 100 km/h. Regional roads with four lanes tend to average at 80 km/h and two lane roads are often 50-60 km/h despite the expected rule of 50km/h without signs posted. Obviously in heavier traffic the speeds will decrease. Most news reports of multi-car collisions never happen when traffic is flowing, but often when it was slowed, as a faster car, distracted, fails to see ahead in time. You know you witness it, and you know you’ve been narrowly missed by motorists that ignore the situation.¬† Every night heading home on Hwy400 those so called merge lanes, which are really termination lanes, that end immediately after the exit you went by, need to be abolished. Lanes should exit or continue, period. Allowing motorists the choice of an empty lane to nowhere, vs. staying in line in the lane that goes somewhere, and a motorist will always to the wrong thing by diving down that lane. This could gain them 2-10 spots in traffic if somebody lets them get away with it. As long as that person exists, they will continue to abuse that opportunity. You see it between Dufferin and Keele on the Hwy 401 west, and many other Hwys and Black Creek south at Jane Street. Those lanes are “designed” by planners and engineers, people you think should plan cities, and they create chaos. As an architectural professional and “driver” I would never plan anything that poorly. The best highways are two lane roads where everybody knows where they need to be. The more you build, the less they move.

We also need to stop putting blame on rubber-necking for reducing speed. Rubber-necking saves more lives than speeding by the incident, as it makes those involved less likely to be hit by cars at higher speed.

Knowing your lane matters, too often I see people speed up the left lane to cross four lanes right to exit. This can be cars, and even commercial trucks, but it is a regular occurrence.

Even in heavy traffic, many motorists weave, most do not signal, ever, and of those that don’t, many smoke left handed out the window. This is not a generalization, this is what I’ve observed in over twenty years of commuting through the GTA, that most people who refuse to signal, are smokers. Their left hand is too busy giving them cancer, to obey the rules of the road. As a driver you learn to trust nobody, and expect anything and everything, because it will probably happen. Signals save lives, they’d save more if they were used.

My opinion, and yes it is an opinion, I am not calling it fact, as much as I believe it to be one, speed doesn’t kill, bad motorists kill. Re-testing at all license renewals would go a long way to improve those motorists faults, and add revenue to the coffers to build better roads and transit to avoid them.

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