Friday, June 16, 2017

Then and Now: 15mph vs 60mph Head-on Collisions on Silverton Road

Today's news about the sentencing of a driver in a fatal crash on Silverton Road should remind us of the role of speed.

Here's a counter-example from a century ago. In large part because slow speeds were involved, everyone survived.
Autos Meet Head On
On Silverton Road
No Serious Injuries
June 15th, 1917
Blinded by the glare from their own headlights, two automobiles crashed together last night about 10 o'clock on the Salem-Silverton road just the other side of the state fair grounds with the result that Crystal Yates, daughter of Bert Yates, of this city, received cuts on the face from flying glass and others of the party were severely shaken up and bruised. The cars were badly shattered.

S. Krapps, of Salem, was driving his Maxwell home from Silverton and Peter Herr, of Silverton, was driving a Chevrolet toward Silverton when the accident occurred. It is stated that the cars were both going at a rate of from 12 to 15 miles an hour.

In the car with Peter Herr were Mrs. Elvin Herr, Mrs. George Cusiter, Crystal Yates and Mrs. Peter Herr. In the car with Mr. Krapps were Miss Ethel Jones, Miss Merle Tracy, teachers in the Salem high school, and Miss Marjorie Cave and Miss Esther Gremmels.

Crystal Yates was taken to the Willamette Sanatorium where her wounds were dressed by Dr. E. E. Fisher. Miss Cave was severely but not seriously shaken up.
In a much higher speed crash crash last year, everybody did not survive.

via Placemakers
Even though this chart shows probability for people walking, the principle is the same: Speed kills. Lower-speeds reduce the probability of crashes and reduce the lethality of crashes.

Wider roads optimized for free-flow or faster auto travel also compound the problem.

Of course in this modern crash there is a bad actor, with a documented history of excessive and careless speeding. The driver
had been cited six weeks before the crash for speeding. A Marion County deputy pulled Alvarez-Ayala over for driving 78 mph in a 45 mph zone on Cordon Road.
But as long as our ideal is this fantasy of free-flowing traffic, the wide and inviting roads we build will induce careless zooming, and these increase the probability of bad actors and catastrophe.

From 1937 this remains our ideal - via NYRB
This is a trade-off we make: Wider roads, freer-flowing traffic, and more death.

Front pager on traffic violence

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