CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Archive for the ‘Traffic Laws’ Category

Twenty’s Plenty

For those looking to explain why the U.K. has made comparatively greater advances in traffic safety than the U.S. over the last few decades, urban speed zones are one good place to look.

An article recently published in the British Medical Journal, “Effect of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road injuries in London, 1986-2006: controlled interrupted time series analysis,” by Chris Grundy, et al., notes that “the introduction of 20 mph zones was associated with a 41.9% (95% confidence interval 36.0% to 47.8%) reduction in road casualties, after adjustment for underlying time trends.”

The reduction, they also note, was greatest for young children — which brings up the point that it’s not merely children’s risk-taking behavior responsible for their deaths as pedestrians, that addressing driver’s behavior can make a difference — and mattered more for KIAs (killed or serious injuries) than for minor injuries. They also report that “there was no evidence of casualty migration to areas adjacent to 20 mph zones, where casualties also fell slightly by an average of 8.0% (4.4% to 11.5%).” Perhaps driving more slowly on one set of streets even had a carry-over effect. The reductions are impressive and seem beyond what might be explained by some other factor, such as a reduction in pedestrian volumes over that same time period (although other factors, like the presence of enforcement cameras, need to be kept in mind).

About now is where someone usually complains that putting up 20 mph signs is ineffective and won’t change driver behavior. But we’re not talking about mere signage here, we’re talking “self-enforcing roads,” with a variety of engineering and design measures, and as the authors write, some evidence “suggests that the self enforcing 20 mph zones are effective in reducing traffic speeds to an average of 17 mph, an average reduction of 9 mph.”

The benefit wasn’t merely for pedestrians. “A somewhat counterintuitive observation,” they write, “is the apparently large reduction in injuries to car occupants.”

And not surprisingly, given their findings, the authors argue for extending, where justified, the 20 mph zone throughout London, and other metropolitan regions. Which isn’t necessarily an easy task, as Shanthi Ameratunga notes in a reply, also worth reading. “Giving provincial or local agencies the authority to reduce national speed limits is an important step in achieving this vision. Yet the 2009 global survey on road safety reported that only 29% of 174 participating countries set speed limits of 50 km an hour or below on urban roads and allowed local authorities to reduce national speed limits. These findings probably reflect both the lack of evidence on cost effective speed management strategies in low income and middle income countries, and the reticence of most governments to enforce laws that limit driving speeds, possibly because of perceived public opposition.”

But progress is being made, at least in the U.K.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 at 9:41 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
9 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

52 Pickup

I thought the driver with 45 suspensions who was still driving in Detroit was remarkable, but that record has been bested.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 at 3:31 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
No Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

I’ve Looked at Life From Both Sides Now

Samoa switches over.

As sirens and church bells wailed across Samoa just before 6am on Monday, drivers obediently stopped their cars. Then, after instructions issued over the radio by the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, they shifted to the other side of the road and ushered in history.

“After this announcement you will all be permitted to move to the other side of the road, to begin this new era in our history,” Mr Tuilaepa told his people, warning: “Don’t drive if you are sleepy, drunk or just had a fight with your wife.”

Sage advice for normal driving as well.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 at 12:01 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

Catch-22 in Virginia

A good article in the Washington Post unpacks some of the vagaries of laws prohibiting texting and cell-phone use while driving. My favorite passage, concerning Virginia, notes:

The law makes texting a secondary offense, so an officer has to stop a driver for some other reason before writing a texting citation. In court, the driver can say he was dialing a phone call, which is legal, or using his phone’s GPS function, which is legal. Short of getting texting records from a phone company, which isn’t allowed because the crime is a misdemeanor, an officer has no way to prove a driver was texting.

If the law seems laughable, the fine is a real joke: $20.

Maryland’s forthcoming law, by contrast, sets the fine at $500.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 at 7:16 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
3 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

The Leftist Insurgency in Samoa

I’ve got a new piece up at Salon.com that considers that ever vexing question: Which side of the road should we drive on? And should we all do it the same way?

Here’s the opener:

A revolution is afoot in the small Pacific island nation of Samoa. Mass demonstrations, the biggest the country has ever seen, have rocked the capital. A new political party has formed in an attempt to depose the prime minister. The airwaves crackle with dissent.

As is often the case in political strife, a left-right divide underpins the Samoan turmoil. In this case, left vs. right refers to which side of the road Samoans are meant to drive on. At 6 a.m. on Sept. 7, Samoans, who for over a century have navigated on the right — like their neighbors in American Samoa — will change over to the left.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 9:55 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
4 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Hanging Up

Illustration by Mike Lukovich

It has been heartening to see the hard science of distracted driving getting such prominent attention, the latest of course being the New York Times coverage of the naturalistic truck study (and keep in mind that truck drivers are statistically safer than civilian drivers) by VTTI (which I look forward to reading in its entirety), followed by today’s announcement of proposed legislation for a texting-while-driving ban pegged to state highway funding. My only qualm with all the texting coverage is that it might push to the side the very real issue of cell-phone conversation while driving, which the cell-phone lobby and others would have us believe is not an issue — they of course don’t want to give up those minutes, those same minutes that preciously tick away as you sit listening to the horrible and lengthy prompts to leave messages.

But the idea of a legislative ban always brings up the issue of the difficulties of enforcement, and along those lines I have been wondering what alternatives (or supplementary tools) there might be to a legislative solution to the problem of wireless communication while driving. (more…)

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2009 at 11:30 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
14 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

What About Happy Hour?

An item from the AP notes:

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Supreme Court says police were within their rights to pull over a drunken driver whose vehicle briefly crossed the center line.

The case involves Michael Popke, who was stopped in 2007 in New London after an officer saw his vehicle briefly drive into the left lane. His blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit, and Popke was charged with third-offense drunken driving.

An appeals court had ruled the stop unconstitutional, saying police did not have probable cause to pull him over.

The unanimous Supreme Court overturned that decision Wednesday. Justice Annette Ziegler says the stop was reasonable because Popke was driving erratically at 1:30 a.m.

Does this mean that police do not have probable cause to pull over a driver driving erratically at, say, 1:30 p.m.? What if the police had phoned in the tags, and noted he was a repeat drunk-driving offender — does that represent probable cause, or is that viewed as some kind of “profiling” (e.g., profiling hazardous drivers)?

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2009 at 1:58 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
6 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Supreme Court: Accidents During Crimes Are Still Crimes

I found this New York Times piece, on a recent High Court ruling of a gun that accidentally discharged during a robbery, noteworthy in light of recent discussions here and elsewhere of the often slippery interplay between the word “accident” and criminal behavior on the road. The following paragraphs are suggestive in terms of thinking about someone who “accidentally” kills a pedestrian, say, while traveling at a high, unlawful speed down a city street:

“Accidents happen,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the 7-to-2 majority in the case, Dean v. United States, No. 08-5274. “Sometimes they happen to individuals committing crimes with loaded guns.”

True, the chief justice said, “it is unusual to impose criminal punishment for the consequences of purely accidental conduct.” But criminals, he said, must bear the consequences of the unintended consequences of their unlawful acts.

Any sort of gunshot during a bank robbery, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “increases the risk that others will be injured, that people will panic or that violence (with its own danger to those nearby) will be used in response.”

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2009 at 12:09 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
No Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Enabling Hit and Run in Utah

The law sends a strange message in Utah. If you hit someone while driving a car, and you’re drunk, it’s better to run. Even if you’re caught.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 at 8:57 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

Traffic Scofflaw Bailout

This state of Washington plan to help drivers pay off tickets is up there with Mitterand’s old traffic ticket amnesty programs in terms of its traffic safety benefits.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 at 8:39 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
No Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

The Law, It’s a Funny Thing

Following up on a story I mentioned a while back, a driver in DeKalb County, Georgia, who struck and killed a child at a crosswalk in front of a school, despite a crossing guard and a line of stopped cars, has been charged with “misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.” My first question is: Do the words misdemeanor and manslaughter appear anywhere else together save the curious field of traffic law?

The second is a bit from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story:

“Misdemeanors can be punished by up to one year in jail. State law makes vehicular homicide a misdemeanor except in certain cases such as drunken driving or ignoring a stop sign on a stopped school bus.”

Well, first, if a driver claims to not see the stop sign on a stopped school bus, is that the same as ignoring it? Second, is there any reason for a driver to less cautious at a cross-walk in front of a school than around a school-bus dispensing children? If the law makes legal protections for children being dropped off from a bus, why wouldn’t it do the same when they are in a protected crosswalk, under the care of a crossing guard?

(Thanks Lucas)

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 6:58 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Mapping Traffic Laws

In the first of a series, the Insurers Institute for Highway Safety maps the dizzying patchwork of traffic laws across the country, starting with motorcycle/bicycle helmets (visit the actual site to activate the map).

I did not know there was a law on the NYC book that a passenger younger than one year old was not allowed (though I can’t say I’ve ever seen that law violated).

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 4:43 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Intexticated

I hadn’t seen this useful word before, but given the similar orders of impairment, it may well be time to introduce it into the lexicon.

The horrifying, poignant case — one of those stark reminders of the ethical and moral implications of how our own distracted driving behavior can affect others — discussed in this Snopes.com posting is real — more details here. Note the repeated use in the TV clip of the word “accident.”

As far as I know texting hasn’t been authoritatively implicated yet — something that is very hard to prove — but given the driver’s behavior some form of impairment seems likely.

Note, for example, this piece about teens trying to text and drive. Those who do it the most are most confident it will not affect their driving.

Collin takes his eyes off the road several times and for long periods of time, sometimes up to 3 seconds. Collins dad watches the video tape replay and is surprised at how long his son’s eyes are off the road. Collin’s dad: “There’s a long span there.”

(Thanks Tom Everson)

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 at 2:52 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
4 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

15 Years, 30 Days

I was intrigued by two recent news items.

One, from Utah:

Calling texting while driving a crime, a judge Tuesday ordered a Tremonton man to spend 30 days in the Cache County jail as part of his sentence for two counts of negligent homicide.

Reggie Shaw was 19 when his Chevy Tahoe veered into oncoming traffic on State Road 30 near Logan, causing the deaths of Cache Valley residents Jim Furfaro, 38, of Logan and Keith O’Dell, 50, of North Logan.

Though Shaw told Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Bart Rindlisbacher at the scene on Sept. 22, 2006, that he had not been texting, subpoenaed cell phone records show Shaw and a friend exchanged 11 text messages in the moments before the accident, according to Cache County Prosecutor Don Linton.

[as an aside, note the passive tense here, rather common in newspaper reporting: it was his Tahoe 'that veered,' deaths 'were caused.' Not, 'he swerved, killing the two drivers.']

Another, via the Washington Post:

A Woodbridge man who drove the wrong way, drunk, on Route 1 last year and slammed head-on into another car at 96 mph, killing the driver, was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday by a Fairfax County judge.

[less passive tense here...]

We have here two cases of driving in the presence of activities shown to cause impairment. In both cases, people died. Yet the sentencing gulf between the two cases is huge. One obvious difference is that texting while driving has yet to be made an actual crime (though I predict it increasingly will be), and I imagine this must influence the sentencing; I am not sure what the usual sentence is for “negligent homicide” — but then again, isn’t a DUI-caused fatality also a “negligent homicide”? How would we feel about a 30-day sentence with some community service for a drunk driver who killed two people? Perhaps the ages of both perpetrators also came into play. But one has to wonder about the major discrepancy in sentencing.

Thoughts?

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Thursday, March 12th, 2009 at 7:05 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
10 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

The Daily ‘Hang Up and Drive’ Dispatch

Gary Richards solicits driving-on-cellphone horror stories.

The worst incident I came upon was about five years ago as a newspaper reporter in Anderson, when a young women was on a cell phone when she pulled out in front of a large truck. She was at a stop sign and stopped. But, for some unknown reason, she pulled out into the traffic, which was traveling around 55 mph. The truck had no time to stop and crashed into her. The girl died instantly. It was a very sad incident.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Monday, March 2nd, 2009 at 9:08 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
No Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

The Dubious Disctinction Between “Good” and “Bad” Drivers on Cell-Phones

I was bothered by this assertion in an editorial on cell-phones in cars:

Motorists who drive carelessly while on the phone — we’ve all seen them — are a hazard and should be penalized. The same is true for those who drive carelessly while operating their CD players, adjusting their GPS devices or fussing with their kids.

But a motorist driving attentively at a lawful speed on a safe, straight stretch of Interstate 5 should not be pulled over because of a telephone conversation.

Yes, obviously people driving recklessly, whether distracted or not, should be pulled over. But to assert that a motorist “driving attentively” on a “safe, straight stretch” of road while talking on a phone is beyond concern is a gross oversimplification of the emerging science.

It reminds me of a night, many years ago, when I was much younger and much more car-dependent (two conditions I do not long to return to), when I drove home in what can only be called a state of substantial intoxication — something I only became dimly aware of a number of minutes into the trip. Somewhat panicked, I rigorously drove the speed limit, and locked my attention on the road — “a safe, straight stretch” (I’ve said it before, “safe” is a relative term; the only objectively safe road is the one that’s never traveled).

In any case, by any external measure, I was just another law-abiding, prudent motorist. The fact was, however, that my physical impairments began with the first drink of the night and only got progressively worse, and that I very likely may have not been able to stop in the face of an unexpected “path intrusion,” or not seen a pedestrian in the crosswalk in time to react, etc. But I would not have been readily aware of the scale of this performance decrement, as all my attention was on keeping between the lanes and going the speed limit — which is not necessarily the same thing as safe, attentive driving. Of course, I may indeed have been drifting across lanes; but this feedback is not something always immediately apparent to drunk drivers.

This is the condition that cell-phone conversation presents. Even if there is not obvious “fiddling” with the phone (at least the person is aware of their distraction in that case) or drifting across lanes, there is still some portion of mental workload — higher than one would devote to a billboard, a passenger, or the radio — being dedicated to the task. The driver may still have enough left to operate the car in a seemingly effective manner, but it still leaves open the very good possibility that their performance would be impaired if something out of the ordinary were to happen. To our minds, we may be driving fine, by a certain measure, but just as we are fully unable to measure our own extent of distraction (often, one only realizes this afterward, as the miles traveled while talking have suddenly vanished from recollection, a sign of cognitive shedding), we also cannot predict how that distraction would leave us equipped to react to something unexpected. A car traveling the speed limit and staying within lanes is safe until the driver rear-ends someone who has unexpectedly come to a stop on the highway.

I am reminded of another good excerpt from a paper I referenced earlier this week, by Peter Hancock and colleagues, “On the philosophical foundations of driving distraction and the distracted driver,” in a recent book titled Driver Distraction: Theory, Effects, and Mitigation:

Driving, as we have seen, is a satisficing task. It is one in which all drivers frequently, and on certain occasions necessarily, fail to maintain their attention toward the “correct” source of attraction. Infrequently and unpredictably, these momentary failures encounter the precise environmental circumstances that induce collision. In Haddon’s terms, we “meet the tiger.” Society is content, in general, to chastise those unlucky drivers who find themselves involved in these rare collisions. This does not, of course, exempt those drivers who consciously make the decision to neglect to neglect their responsibilities. However, if collisions became more frequent by several orders of magnitude, society would not single out these ‘bad’ individuals but would seek to make corrections at a systemic level. However, we have been generally content to ratify our collective, institutional schizophrenia, which ‘blames’ the ‘bad’ drivers while encouraging the production of ever greater numbers of technologies that inevitably redirect drivers’ attention from the ever more satisficed task of vehicle control.

The editorial I referred to in the opening sentences wants to make this easy distinction between the “good” and “bad” driver. But it is not so clear; there are many “good” intoxicated drivers who become “bad” only when their blood is analyzed at a crash scene. There is also the problem of ethics: The individual driver may think talking on the phone is a good idea because they’ve done it “all the time” and they do it safely. But what is the moral consequence of participating in a behavior with known negative consequences for driving performance to other people? Already, just by getting behind the wheel, we are doing one of the few things in our life by which we easily have the capability to take someone’s life, accidentally or not; what is the ethical dimension to raising that likelihood, even marginally?

There is always the rejoinder, but why haven’t we seen a big increase in crashes and fatalities with phone use? The first point is there have been any number of fatalities already attributed to cell-phones; the second point is that most people do not talk most of the time, leaving more aware drivers to account for others’ mistakes — as a generation raised on Twitter hits the road it’s anyone’s guess. Another issue is that, perhaps through sheer luck, a majority of drunks make it home every night (should we thus do away with DUI?) And cars of course keep getting safer, which is no consolation to anyone outside the car, a condition common to most of us, even in America. In any case, this line of inquiry misstates the problem. The real question is not why there hasn’t been an increase but why we haven’t seen a great decline in this country (the recent small decline one was mostly due to economic factors) of traffic fatalities? Yes, driving per mile has become ever safer, but per-head of population the number killed is stubbornly similar to decades past. With each increase in car and road safety we seem to find new ways to make our own performance a touch more dangerous.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Friday, February 27th, 2009 at 10:19 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
9 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Liberty City

A few months ago, I was pretty intensively playing Grand Theft Auto IV. As an urbanist, I was curious about its immersive, complex representation of the city — or maybe I just wanted to blow things up after a long day’s work.

Naturally I took an interest in the traffic life of “Liberty City,” which, like the New York that is its inspiration, is a multi-modal mix of pedestrians, cars, subways, motorcyclists, taxis — though, curiously, no cyclists (I thought it might be a programming issue, but there are motorcycles). Its protagonist, the amoral Niko Bellic, presumably not in the country legally, is also presumably an unlicensed driver (that’s the least of his legal violations, of course). At first, I drove quite cautiously, as I thought the omnipresent police might nab me for violating red lights, or even speeding. I soon learned, however, that traffic infractions were not part of the Liberty City PD’s bailiwick — even though, of course, a routine traffic stop might have netted them a gangster. In fact, you pretty much had to commit full-scale mass pedestrian vehicle homicide to even attract the attention of the police. For Niko the driver, Liberty City was pretty much a place where he was at liberty to disregard any rule of the road.

Hmmm… a city where one can routinely drive at high speeds, even in crowded urban environments, with little repercussion, where even striking a pedestrian will get you little more than a few pointed questions from the police (and in fact it may have even been the police that did it), where traffic signals are treated as optional… This is where the line between Liberty City and New York City really does get blurry.

To wit, via Streetsblog:

A new report from Transportation Alternatives confirms what New York pedestrians and cyclists have been forced to accept as a fact of life: A high number of drivers speed through city streets, regardless of the potentially deadly consequences for those around them.

“Terminal Velocity: NYC’s Speeding Epidemic” shows that 39 percent of observed motorists were driving in excess of the 30 mph speed limit. Using radar guns and speed enforcement cameras at 13 locations, TA volunteers clocked speeds in excess of 60 mph in school zones and other areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.

Most speeding drivers were traveling between 31 and 40 mph. While a pedestrian struck at 30 mph has a 60 percent chance of surviving a collision, the likelihood of survival drops to 30 percent when the vehicle is moving at 40 mph, TA notes.

The name Liberty City was well chosen by GTA’s creators as its NYC stand-in, at least in the case of many Gotham drivers: You are at liberty to ignore laws. Of course, as John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty, “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community” is “to prevent harm to others.” There’s plenty of harm, let’s get exercised.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2009 at 2:37 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

Good Policy or Insitutionalized Chutzpah?

In a piece for the Guardian a while back about taking the UK driver’s test, I joked about one of the questions on the test:

“Weird cultural biases crept in. One question asked about encountering a burns victim at an accident scene. I looked in vain for the only answer a driver in the litigious US could give: “Stay in your car, call 911, and do not touch the victim as you may accidentally hurt him even more and he will sue the shirt off of your back.”

This was not, of course, the right answer. But the recent developments in the case of a California driver who sued an office-mate who tried to help her after a car crash on Halloween night rather reinforced the notion, to me at least, that this is indeed is the only proper answer in the U.S.

In an ideal world I suppose we would wait for official emergency response, but what if the person dies while you stand watching and waiting — can you then be sued for negligence? Eroding the “Good Samaritan” law in this way rather strikes me as opening the door to institutional chutzpah, the classic definition being the case of the child who murdered his parents and then threw himself upon the mercy of the court, saying he was an orphan.

Any lawyers want to weigh in?

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 8:56 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
No Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

“Speed in and of itself is not reckless”

More Rumsfeldian parsings from the bizarre world of traffic law:

“Jockers said Danks was driving 59 mph in a 45-mph zone – or 14 mph over the speed limit – but speed alone is not sufficient to level a charge of vehicular homicide, he said. If Danks had been weaving through traffic or changing lanes before the collision, he might have been charged with a more serious offense, Jockers said.

Given that the chances that a pedestrian will live or die when struck by a car rises exponentially with speed, it seems strange to leave it out of the equation.

“His overall driving pattern did not rise to the level of recklessness, which is what you have to have to prove if you want to charge someone with vehicular homicide,” Jockers said. “Speed in and of itself is not reckless.”

Note the the “millionaire DWI killer,” in another case, was said to be going 60 mph in Manhattan. Good thing he didn’t change lanes — they would have thrown the book at him!

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Monday, January 12th, 2009 at 6:11 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

The Box, Blocked

One of the interesting things I gleaned from Jeffrey Kluger’s far-reaching book Simplexity is the observation, via NYC traffic guru Sam “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz, that during the worst of Manhattan’s traffic paralysis, the dreaded “gridlock,” some 60 percent of the city’s total road capacity would be available. “All of the action,” notes Kluger, “takes place in the intersections.”

One of the reasons, of course, is the dreaded condition of “blocking the box,” wherein drivers get caught out in the intersection on a red signal, thus obstructing the competing flow. This is fairly chronic behavior: One study found that at nine of Manhattan’s ten busiest intersections, some 3000 vehicles blocked the box over a nine hour period.

I kept experiencing this on a recent approach to the Holland Tunnel during the evening peak. As I stared at the large signs, warning of points off the license and fines, I found myself wondering if there were any more novel solutions beyond mere punishment (and there have been calls to increase ticketing of box-blockers). Was there a Nudge-style solution? I’m not sure the recent Nudge for speed reduction would work here, but maybe there’s something else?

While we’re on the subject of carrots rather than sticks, I was intrigued by this notice from the Times of India. On August 1st, in Hyderabad, drivers who obey the laws will be rewarded with a favorite Indian sweet: ” To get the lip-smacking dood peda, all you have to do is wear a helmet, carry original driving licence, RC, PUC certificate and insurance papers.” I dunno, maybe NYC traffic cops could give out Jolly Ranchers at intersections to drivers who don’t stray into the box?

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Posted on Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 2:57 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.
Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

Order Traffic from:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
Random House | Powell’s

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from Amazon.co.uk.

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Toronto

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

 

 

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Twitter
September 2014
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930