Posts Tagged ‘traffic safety’

Speed Kills… Your Pocketbook


Been meaning to post this video up on the blog for awhile now but keep forgetting. It is a pretty interesting video that focuses on how Governments set speed limits artificially low so they can write more tickets. It looks at how ICBC, the Vancouver Police Department and the media all have a hand at shaping or distorting the truth when it comes to speeding.

Continue Reading: Watch the video

Are Speed Limits Artificially Low in Calgary?

The Calgary Police Service has release updated traffic statistics regarding its Intersection Safety Camera program (Red light and Speed on Green cameras). In 2011 a total of 116,322 tickets were issued, 99,258 for speeding and 17,064 for running the red light. The cameras monitor the streets 24 hours a day, 365 days a year snapping away generating revenue every 20 seconds. Sure beats hiring, training and deploying actual officers on the streets!

26,107 speeding tickets were issued at EB 16 Ave & 10 St alone where the speed limit is 50km/h. That works out to 71 tickets a day. This sounds a bit excessive, and I imagine the City of Calgary traffic department as well as the Calgary Police expected this intersection would be brought up when they released the statistics.

“When we put this in perspective in the number of vehicles that travel through the intersection, what that says to us is the equipment is working as it’s designed to work,” said Insp. Michael Watterston, the head of Calgary’s Traffic Unit.

“We have a small percentage of motorists that speed through that intersection or fail to stop for that red light, so in that sense, generally, people are obeying the speed limit, the traffic light cycle, so that’s comforting.”

In 2011, a total of 5.8 million vehicles went through the intersection which means less than 1% of those were speeding or ran the red light, pretty good right? Not exactly. It really depends on what angle you want to look at the numbers. While Insp. Watterston uses the the term “motorists” a more accurate term would be ‘vehicle trips”. 1% of the vehicle trips at the intersection in question resulted in a ticket being issued but if we were to look at the % of motorists or unique people being ticketed the # would be quite a bit higher. Why does this matter? If 15% or 20% of individuals that drive through that intersection are speeding then perhaps it would actually be safer if the speed limit was raised to 60 kph to minimize any speed differences in traffic. The goal is safety right?

60 KPH Zone on 16 Ave SW

60 KPH Zone - Fence Separation, Sidewalk adjacent to roadway

Take a look at the above photo showing 16 Ave SW in the 60kph zone which is about 4 blocks before the speed camera. Now take a look at where the speed limit is dropped to 50kph right before the speed camera. The roadway is wider, it is separated by a stronger concrete planter and the sideway is separated from the roadway. Motorists on this stretch will feel more comfortable driving at a higher rate of speed in the 50 zone than they would in the 60 zone, which is precisely why there is a speed camera there. There is higher tendency for motorists to speed here. Safety is not the primary concern here.

50 KPH Zone on 16 Ave SW

50 KPH Zone - Concrete Separation, Sidewalk separated from roadway

Speaking of safety, I decided to look into the statistics over the last few years to see if the ISCs were really making our streets safer. In the years prior to the launch of the speed-on-green cameras, injury collisions dropped from 3300 in 2007 to about 3000 in 2008 then to 2569 in 2009. The speed cameras were introduced in spring of 2009 (2 cameras were upgraded initially) and the full deployment of the speed-on-green cameras was completed at the end of the year. The trend for collisions was down even before all the cameras were upgraded. What about injury collisions after the “safety cameras” were installed? Flat. 2473 in 2010 and 2466 in 2011.

Bottom line, upgrading the red light cameras to be speed cameras (let’s call it what it actually is, instead of a safety camera) was strictly for revenue. In fact, Ald. John Mar who is on the Police Commission said:
the police commission will carry on with the program despite early numbers suggesting that Calgarians aren’t slowing down.

Hmm, of course they will carry on, money talks.

How To Navigate A Traffic Circle / Roundabout

5 Road Traffic Circle at Mackenzie Towne

Pictured above is the traffic circle located in Mackenzie Towne. While most of the “traffic circles” in Calgary are of the miniature single lane traffic calming variety, this one is a dual lane version connecting five roads together. The traffic circle was built not only to move traffic more efficiently than intersections with traffic lights, but also to move the traffic in the area with a higher degree of safety. With traffic all going in the same direction, head-on collisions and right angle (t-bone) accidents are prevented. The environmental benefits are there too since there are no cars stopped at red lights with the use of a traffic circle.

Thats great! properly designed roadways to handle traffic is a rarity in Calgary. Just look at how many new “interchanges” have lights. Mackenzie Towne residents know the real reason why the city prefers to build interchanges/intersections with traffic lights. Many drivers don’t know how to properly navigate a traffic circle! When uneducated stupid drivers enter the traffic circle and drive all the way around the circle in the right lane oblivious to the drivers honking at them, the traffic circle goes from efficient roadway to fancy looking roadway with long queue of cars waiting to get through.

This handy little guide is for all the frustrated drivers out in Mackenzie Towne who are sick of drivers that don’t know how to navigate a traffic circle. Hopefully people will read this post and share it with people they know who drive in the area.

1. Before arriving at the traffic circle, figure out which exit you will be taking as it will determine which lane you should use. You may actually use either lane but we’ll get into that later. Traffic flows counter clockwise in the traffic circle, so on this particular traffic circle there are 4 exits, and 5 technically if you want to go back the way you came from. If you plan on exiting on the first 2 exits, you’ll want the right lane. For exits 3 and 4 (or 5), you should be in the left lane.

2. Drivers in the left lane inside the circle have the right of way. Drivers in the right lane inside the circle should be exiting the circle. In point 1, I mentioned that you could use either lane to navigate the circle but that the left lane should be used if you are heading to an exit that is past the 2nd one. If you chose to use the right lane, you MUST yield to traffic that is in the left lane that need to exit the circle.

3. When entering the circle, wait for cars to pass and enter. If you are in the left lane, stay in your lane and go to the inside lane of the circle. When you reach the exit you want, stay in your lane when exiting. Remember, you have the right of way and traffic in the right lane should be yielding to you. If you entered from the right lane, exit the circle in your own lane. If you want to proceed past an exit, simply yield to traffic in the left lane that may be exiting and continue through to your exit.

That’s all there is to it! If you find everything all too confusing try to remember this:
1. Cars on the inside lane of the circle (left lane) have right of way
2. Cars on the outside lane of the circle (right lane) must yield to cars on the inside of circle who are exiting
3. When exiting the circle, stay in your lane

It’s great that the City of Calgary is looking at ways to improve our roadway system both for drivers and for pedestrians, but in this case I feel there needs to be a stronger educational campaign involving driving schools. Perhaps the test should include a quick trip to the traffic circle in Mackenzie Towne!

Feel free to add anything that was missed by leaving a comment to this post. Also, if you feel any of this is inaccurate, please share!

Using Your Rearview Mirrors

Mirror, signal, shoulder check, change is the chant that we all know to follow for a successful lane change. We also use our rearview mirrors to give us a better view than our eyes alone when we are backing up. Is this all that mirrors are used for and are these the only times that we use them?

Most of us do not give the rear view mirrors the attention that they deserve. A defensive driver will scan ahead to see what they are approaching, to the sides to see what is around them, to the rear to see what is behind and finally check the instrument panel to monitor their speed and vehicle condition. This cycle repeats every five to eight seconds, so their mirrors do get a regular workout.

The rearview mirror must be consulted before you put your foot on the brake. This may be the only way to decide if you will be hit from the rear if you slow or stop. Being aware of vehicles following you too closely or overtaking you too quickly may make you change your mind about braking or show you that you need to take evasive action.

One last thought concerns moving back into the lane after passing an overtaken vehicle. You should not do this until you can see all of the vehicle you have passed in your rear view mirror. Failing to do this will put the overtaken driver in the position of unintentionally tailgating you.

Reference Links

Setting Credible Speed Limits

Without doubt, the laws that drivers fail to follow the most often must regard the speed limit. Everyone has a justification for doing so. They range from being in a hurry, which is selfish, to the limit is set too low which is either a reasonable observation or a result of failing to take all factors into consideration.

In the past, speeds were set according to engineering design standards. This was often varied by the 85th percentile rule. The logic behind this was that the limit was most likely to be followed if it was set at what the majority of drivers chose.

More recently, collision data was introduced to the equation. A higher incidence of collisions called for a reduction in the speed limit. This will likely be supplanted by tending toward speeds that will mean road users will survive and injury will be minimized if a collision does occur.

What does the future hold? Perhaps we will factor in the production of greenhouse gases. Fuel consumption rises rapidly with speed and this is directly related to what comes out of the tailpipe.

Obviously, setting a credible speed limit that drivers will accept and follow is a difficult task. However, if it is accomplished there will be a high degree of voluntary compliance and perhaps a safer driving environment.

Reference Links

Slow Down, Move Over

Emergency workers are very happy with BC’s new slow down, move over law that came into effect June 1, 2009. When they are stopped at the side of the highway and displaying flashing lights, red, blue or yellow, approaching traffic is required to slow down and move over. This will provide a safe workspace for the emergency workers and hopefully also for those who are driving past.

The slow down half of the law requires overtaking motorists to slow to 70 km/h on highways posted at 80 km/h and higher and to 40 km/h in all other speed zones. My guess is that when this speed is enforced, very little, if any, wiggle room will be allowed. If you choose not to slow down to at least match the limit if not a bit less, you choose to risk a ticket.

The move over portion requires that if it is safe to do so, you will move into the unoccupied adjacent lanes. This could mean the adjacent lane in the same direction if there are multiple lanes, or the oncoming lane if there are not. Remember, if you have to use the oncoming lane, you have no lawful excuse to encroach on it when there is oncoming traffic.

Will the law increase safety? Only if drivers think and then act before they approach closely. Many times in the past I have watched vehicles overtake my stationary police car at or over the speed limit a foot from my door instead of slowing down and moving into the empty lane.

Reference Links

Don’t Forget To Set Your Clocks Back!

In about 10 minutes Daylight Savings Time will be over and we are to set our clocks back 1 hour, that is unless you are from Saskatchewan, which does not observe DST. Enjoy the extra hour of sleep, because I know I sure will! Its already November and we still have not really had any cold weather yet but with the shift in time and cold weather around the corner, driving conditions will rapidly get worse as we move further into November. Drive safe.

This time of year is also a time when local fire departments remind everyone to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Take a couple minutes and check to ensure your smoke detector is working, even if you have one that is hardwired and does not require batteries.

Mark your 2009 calendars, we start this fun time shifting game again on March 9, 2009 when we “spring ahead” again.

Happy Halloween 2008!

Pumpkin Carvings by beyond member, barmanjay

Pumpkin Carvings by beyond member, barmanjay

I normally start these type of posts with some sort of history of the day but Halloween is different. You see, its the one time of year where it is socially acceptable for younger women to bring out their inner slut. This year will be especially crazy as Halloween falls on a Friday allowing for more partying. Tonight all the guys will not only have alcohol on their side to help them score, they will also get to hide their ugly mugs behind some sort of clever Halloween costume!

Since this is an automotive blog, its my duty to throw the following message out there. Please slow down when driving tonight especially in residential neighborhoods as there will be many children out there trick-or-treating. During my days of going door to door to get free candy (woot!) we didn’t start until 6:00pm but I have noticed parents are starting to go earlier each year with some starting as early as 5:00pm to try to catch some sunlight so be on the lookout! :)

In our playground zone debates, many drivers here on beyond said they normally just drive slower when there are actually kids around (regardless of whether or not they are in a playground zone). Tonight, you can bet that there will be kids on nearly every residential street and the last thing on their minds will be to look both ways before darting across the road.

If you’ve carved a pumpkin this year, snap a photo of it and post it in the pumpkin carving thread! I’ll post a bunch of them in a future blog post.

High Beams Blind Cyclists

I bicycle to work with proper lighting and reflective gear. My safety concern is oncoming traffic with their high beams on, especially when it rains, because those oncoming high beams are like a welding arc or camera flash. Can you please recommend a simple, yet cost effective solution? Glasses don’t help as they dull ones night sight. How can I alert traffic to lower their beams?

The Motor Vehicle Act says that the operator of a cycle has the same rights and duties as the operator of a motor vehicle. However, the right to have the headlights of approaching or overtaking vehicles dimmed within 150 meters only applies to another vehicle, not a cycle. Concerned drivers may choose to dim their headlights out of courtesy if they wish to.

This reader is correct when he observes that wearing sunglasses at night is not the solution. This would severely limit your ability to see in unlit areas of the highway or in the shadows between street lighting. Yellow tinted lenses are not the answer either according to the Canadian Ophthalmological Society. The contact I corresponded with recommended only clear lenses for night driving.

Cyclists are able to use the same strategy as drivers caught in this situation, slow down and watch the road to your right instead of looking at the oncoming headlights. You may also be able to ride on a side road that does not have as much traffic to limit your exposure to any dazzle. These are not ideal solutions but are better than doing nothing at all.

If you are having trouble seeing, remember that motorists may be in the same situation. Insure that you have good quality lights and reflectors on your bicycle and use them. Not only do they help you to see at night, they help other traffic see you.

Reference Links

Stopping for Police

Judging by the result, it may be a significant event in many driver’s lives to be pulled over by the police. I’ve seen everything from jamming on the brakes and stopping in the middle of the lane to following oblivious drivers for many kilometers before they caught sight of my emergency lights. The tendency was closer to the former rather than the latter, although some drivers made it quite plain that my choice of a place to stop them was not a good one.

In most cases, I would turn on my emergency lights and catch up to the vehicle that I wanted to stop. I would then follow along behind until the driver noticed me and pulled over. If the spot they chose was not a good one, I would ask that they move to a safer location and finish the contact with them there. The choice of where to stop was really theirs because I was signalling them to stop. The law requires that they immediately come to a safe stop and the safe stop qualifier allows some leeway in the driver choosing to find an appropriate place to pull over depending on the circumstances.

If it was really important that the driver stop regardless, I would turn on my emergency lights and siren. The additional use of the siren removes the driver’s discretion in choosing to do anything more than immediately moving to the nearest edge of the roadway clear of an intersection and coming to a full stop. Where we ended up was entirely my responsibility to deal with.

The presence of an emergency vehicle should not come as a surprise to any driver unless their ability to see is limited by the character of the highway. Being aware of traffic other than that directly in front of you allows a defensive driver to act in anticipation rather than react in panic or not act at all. It would probably also have reduced the complaints about me having picked a lousy place to stop someone as well.

Reference Links

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