The readers always write: Speed cameras
In another report issued the previous year, the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that 55% of all speeding-related fatal crashes were due to drivers exceeding the posted limit, while 45% were caused by drivers who were going too fast for conditions.
Just the other night, a significant snow storm hit the Chicago area, and I was out in the middle of it. I have a Jeep, so I wasn’t concerned, but I was cognizant of the need to drive at a speed that matched the conditions, which in this case was about 30 miles per hour on an expressway where the posted speed is 55 mph. Most of the people around me were of similar mindset—but several were not, and they whizzed by me. Eventually, I noticed flashing lights up ahead, and when I got closer noticed that a car had spun out and landed in a ditch. Though I did not see the accident occur, I would be willing to bet my house that this person was driving way too fast for the conditions.
Yes, I realize that a speed camera wouldn't have helped in this situation because the driver likely wasn't traveling above the posted limit. I also realize that this will be the case in a large percentage of driving-too-fast-for-conditions scenarios, perhaps the majority of them. But you have to start somewhere.
While one reader didn’t agree that speed was a significant factor in a crash, he did suggest that a correlation exists between speed and the severity of the accident. I couldn’t agree more. This is a simple law of physics: force = mass x acceleration. So, the faster an object is moving, the more force it generates, and the more force that is generated, the greater the severity of the injuries.
Finally, one reader suggested that this story doesn’t belong in this publication. He suggested that speed cameras don’t represent communications technology, and certainly would not be considered “urgent,” even if they did. I disagree on both points. A speed camera—and a red-light camera, for that matter—is just another video-surveillance tool for law enforcement to leverage. It also is a sensor system that incorporates data analytics. So, it actually is three communications technologies rolled into one.
And despite what one might think, such cameras do change behaviors. I have seen it with my own eyes. Though I have yet to see a speed camera, there are many red-light cameras in the Chicago area. Before they were installed, one would routinely see drivers blow through red lights. Now, one rarely sees this. It is intuitive to think that less drivers blowing through red lights will dramatically reduce the number of intersection crashes. I hope so. I was in a horrific crash 15 years ago that was caused by a speeder who ran a red light, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
I think it will work the same way for speed cameras, and I welcome their arrival. I do believe that excessive speed is a factor in crashes, especially fatal crashes, and if these cameras at the very least force people to think twice about putting the pedal to the metal, that’s a good thing. It will be even better if they force people to actually slow down, because that at least would result in less-severe crashes, if not less crashes overall—though, for the record, I believe the latter will occur as well—and lives will be saved.
I can’t think of any communications that would be more urgent.