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Friday, August 26, 2011

Clarksville car/pedestrian crash - lessons to be learned

The latest car/pedestrian crash in Clarksville, as reported here, and here, highlight some of the issues surrounding Fort Campbell Boulevard. Fort Campbell Boulevard is a massive 7-lane arterial that is built up on both sides. The second article points to the lack of crosswalks and six pedestrian fatalities over the past two years on that road. Even at signalized intersections, there was only 14 s to cross the seven lanes before the light changed back to red. The reporters noted that they had to run across in order to make it through on time.

A quick calculation shows that for a typical walking speed of 3 mi/hr, 14 s is enough to cross only 5 lanes, for typical lane widths of 11-12 ft. It could be that the small amount of time allocated to the pedestrian phase of the light cycle is another example of car-centric design; after all, every additional second for pedestrians means one less second for cars. Improvements in crossings and crosswalks are desired there of course. Does the road actually need all seven lanes with its hazards? What is its daily traffic? Should the traffic be calmed?

This particular crash holds a safety lesson though outside of engineering. According to the reports, the pedestrian was struck when cars in the first two lanes stopped for him, but a car in the third did not. When crossing multiple lanes of traffic, and a lane of cross traffic yields to oneself, cross only into that lane and check the next lane before proceeding further. This rule holds regardless of whether one is on foot, car, bike, or anything else. It also applies at double or more tracked railroad crossings - just because one track is clear or has just cleared doesn't mean there isn't a train on an adjacent track. Cross railroad tracks only when ALL tracks are clear. More information on railroad safety is available at Operation Lifesaver.


  1. This is tragic. TDOT needs to get its act together and make it possible to cross the street.

  2. Thomas Paine - Congratulations for bringing an entirely different aspect of our irrational 'culture of fear' lunacy, the one where sexual assaults and child abductions from strangers is likely. Guess what, they aren't. Annually in the US there are 150 abductions of children under the age of 15, OUT OF 40 MILLION CHILDREN. I'll presume you are capable of doing the math to figure out the statistical probability. Also, as to your wife concern that the world is not as safe as in the days of Leave it to Beaver, the rates of neither sexual assaults or child abduction have gone up since the fifties; so, from the perspective of abductions and sexual assaults, yes, today is like the days of Leave it to Beaver, if not safer.

  3. I ride 2.3 miles to school every day and I'm usually a very in active person