Friday, October 8, 2021

Problems with Induced Speeding and Design Speed from 1921

Here's a great piece from exactly 100 years ago, October 8th, 1921, that shows how much we knew about crashes and how much we have ignored it.

October 8th, 1921

Though they use "accident" rather than crash, they are also clear on the role of speed and speeding as well as the role of road design and road conditions inducing speed.

From the piece (with a few typos cleaned up, and italics added):

Most Motor Accidents Caused By Speeding

Three months study of motor accidents on roads has brought to light the interesting disclosure that a vast majority of the disasters that overtake motorists are brought upon themselves by their own recklessness, and that 90 per cent of them are due to speeding says a writer in the September issue of Public Roads, published by the Bureau of Public Roads, United States Department of Agriculture.

"One of the Interesting developments (of the investigation)," the journal goes on to say "is that the largest number of accidents have occurred at the places that have always been considered safe, while the sections which have been commonly regarded as being dangerous are proving to be relatively free from accidents." Where the state highway crosses the Blue Ridge mountains in the western part of the state, and grades are steep and curves sharp, there were but eight accidents during three months. On the National Pike, between Baltimore and Frederick, where there are 48 miles of the straightest road in the state, the record for the same time showed 16 accidents, 3 of which were fatal. "And yet," says the publication, "few stretches of highway in the whole road system are so free on any feature which might be considered as dangerous."

On the Baltimore-Washington road, with all apparent danger spots removed, the record shows that during the same period there was one accident for every four miles of road.

"There seems to be only one answer to account for these hitherto unsuspected conditions," the article says. That answer is:

"Even the less careful motorists drive cautiously in the presence of recognized dangers, such as steep grades, sharp curves, grade crossings, etc., while the absence of such dangerous features gives the driver a sense of security which prompts him to take a chance and yield [to] the well-nigh universal passion for speed."

Few accidents were due, it was found, to the condition of the roads themselves; and most of those were due to slippery surfaces caused by rains.

And some modern repetition of the same basic themes.

Design too often induces speeding

Dangerous by Design 2021 report

More specifically, from Dangerous by Design, noting the very same pattern on induced speed:

Streets that have wide lanes that allow room for mistakes, lack high-visibility crosswalks, have wide intersections that encourage drivers to make turns without slowing, and have long distances between intersections, encourage higher speeds—regardless of how low speed limits are set.

Recently here on speed and design:

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