What's speed got to do with it?
Children are more likely to be struck by a car in areas with higher speed limits. In fact, an increase in vehicle speeds results in an increase in the risk of injury.
- A pedestrian struck by a car traveling at 50 km/hr is eight times more likely to be killed than a pedestrian struck at 30 km/hr.
- Even small reductions in speed can be significant.
- For each 1.6 km/hr reduction in average speed, collisions are reduced by five per cent.
- Reducing vehicle speed has been proven to be effective in preventing crashes and reducing the severity of injuries.
At a speed of 30km/hr, vehicles and pedestrians are both relatively safe; drivers have sufficient time to stop for pedestrians and pedestrians can make better crossing decisions.
Changing attitudes and behaviours
Pedestrian safety is each driver's responsibility. Children's physical and mental capacities are still developing well into their teens and they are often unable to make safe judgments about pedestrian safety. Drivers must be prepared for children to act like children.
Unfortunately, speeding is common in Canada. According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation:
- 2.7 million Canadians admit to often driving well over the speed limit.
- Two million admit to frequently accelerating to get through a traffic light
- 670,000 say they take risks while driving, just for the fun of it.
It is significant that drivers cannot accurately determine their own speed while they are driving and, as a consequence, may not slow down when they see children.
Alerting drivers when they are speeding can be very useful. According to Transport Canada, 72 per cent of Canadian drivers endorse roadside warning signs that tell them when they are speeding. In addition, a combination of speed cameras and fines can enforce speed limits in residential areas and school zones.
One study found that when warning signs, cameras and police are in place, the number of vehicles travellling more than 10 km/hr over the speed limit dropped by 70 per cent.
Speed limit reductions in several other countries, including the United States, resulted in a decline in road crashes ranging from eight to 40 per cent.
Changing physical environments
Physical changes or barriers can discourage speeding and have a significant impact on the number and severity of pedestrian-related crashes. A Danish study found that traffic calming reduced pedestrian injuries by as much as 60 per cent.
Traditional traffic calming measures include:
- Speed bumps
- Road narrowing
- Adding pedestrian islands or curb extensions (bulbouts).
Recent studies have shown other interesting elements that calm traffic. For example, trees reduce speed. They shield pedestrians from moving traffic, while clearly defining the roadway edge. Interestingly, tree-lined streets can also help drivers to visually assess, and consequently reduce, their speed. Trees also make walking more pleasant and improve air quality.
An increase in the number of pedestrians also results in fewer pedestrian injuries. When drivers see people out and about, they usually slow down.
In addition, growing concerns about air quality may see a renewed enthusiasm for walking over driving. This could lead to an increase in pedestrian numbers, which in turn may improve safety.