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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Knox County Pedestrian struck twice, killed near her home

On Tuesday night, around 10:30 PM, a pedestrian was struck by first one car, and then a second going the opposite direction on Snyder Rd near Catlett Ln near her home. The newspaper reports are available here, with a followup here. Those who live in the area can attest to the strong rainstorms that were in the area that night. A senseless tragedy, no doubt.

Looking at Snyder Rd in the area of the crash, the speed limit for the area was 30 mph. We do not know whether the drivers were speeding, and we do not know whether and to what extent excessive speed played a role in this crash. Since the speed limit is supposed to be the limit under good conditions, it's possible that the actual limit on the night would be substantially lower. Studies have shown how the fatality rate for pedestrians who are struck by cars increases exponentially with the speed of the car.

Now in terms of engineering solutions that might reduce the incidence of speeding and calm traffic, there are treatments such as chicanes that deliberately create a winding road. More mundane treatments include, in terms of the slowing imposed, speed bumps, speed humps, and speed tables.

Speed bumps require vehicles to come to a near stop before proceeding. They are typically found in parking lots. Speed humps are broader than speed bumps, and speed humps require slowing to a steady speed around 10-20 mph. Speed tables are basically speed humps with a flat center, and they reduce speeds to 20-30 mph. The center of speed tables frequently are used for pedestrian crossings.

Traffic calming measures are not without drawbacks though. First, there is the potential for slowing emergency vehicles. Second is increased noise and other pollution due to vehicles slowing and accelerating. If vehicles traveled at a slower but constant speed though, the added fuel consumption would probably not be significant.

Checking the Knox County Engineering website, current policy in terms of the installation of traffic calming measures is detailed here. Basically, traffic calming measures are available by request in subdivisions, subject to the availability of funds, where a supermajority (70%) of residents approve of measures. Nothing is written there about measures outside of subdivisions.

What are some of the things pedestrians can do to make themselves safer to reduce the incidence of such tragedies, short of not venturing out to begin with? Considering how the road in question was a narrow one, it's not clear that the middle was a more dangerous place to be than anywhere else.

1 comment:

  1. The entire issue of fatal car vs. pedestrian/cyclist interaction is a tough one. It is clear that society as a whole and much of law enforcement consider a dead cyclist or pedestrian as having got what they deserved for daring to be on a road used by motor vehicles. There is more sympathy for the deceased if the driver can be proven to be impaired in some way. Except for immediate quantitative alcohol and drug testing this is difficult to prove. As an ER physician I have witnessed cases of motor vehicle crashes involving two automobiles with fatalities in which the driver was obviously intoxicated but not tested. The bias toward the living is not limited to pedestrian and cyclist fatalities except it is always us who are the dead.

    The only way I see to correct this would be to consider any driver killing someone as having committed vehicular homicide and then varying the punishment according to culpability. That would be a hard sell and violate the concept of innocent until proven guilty. The final solution will come when we end the tyranny of speed so that walking and cycling become accepted uses of the roadways.

    As a practical matter the best we as an organization can do is assure that someone calls the agencies responsible for investigating these events to encourage a serious effort.