New speed limits announced
Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city was implementing new speed limits on 71 different streets around Los Angeles on Feb. 28. The new speed limits were implemented in an effort to address the city’s high motor vehicle fatality rate. Garcetti stated that the new speed limits would also come with increased enforcement efforts in order to gain higher compliance with them. He also stated that many drivers in the city simply drive with the flow of traffic and have no idea of what the speed limits are on the roads on which they travel. Most streets did not have their speed limits changed. However, 45 streets had their speed limits decreased while 26 had their limits increased. The mayor indicated that the changes were necessary to reduce the city’s fatality rate even further with the goal of reaching zero fatalities by 2025.
The traffic accident problem in LA
In 2017, 244 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in Los Angeles. While this represented a 6 percent decrease from the number of people who were killed in 2016, it fell far short of the goal to reduce traffic deaths by 20 percent by the end of 2017. While overall traffic deaths fell, pedestrian deaths have risen 80 percent since 2015. Garcetti attributed this increase to the use of cell phones by both drivers and pedestrians. People who are distracted by their smartphones while they are driving or walking may fail to see pedestrians or oncoming vehicles in time to prevent collisions.
Reducing speed limits may help to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths. One study that was published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention found that pedestrians who are struck by cars at an impact speed of 40 mph had a 50 percent chance of being killed. When the impact speed is reduced to 24 mph, the chance of being killed is 10 percent. While reducing the speed on streets in LA might help to reduce the relative risk of having an accident, the effort alone will likely not be enough by itself.
Vision Zero has three tenets on which its effort to reduce the traffic deaths to zero are based, including education, engineering and enforcement. The education component involves educating the public about the importance of driving safely. The engineering component is an effort to improve the road designs and safety features to make the streets safer. Finally, the enforcement component involves putting more police on the streets to issue citations when they witness people violating the traffic laws.
Some citizens have raised concerns about the increased enforcement efforts by law enforcement officers, pointing to the fact that many of the streets that are the most dangerous are located in areas of the city with high populations of minorities. They are concerned that the city’s enforcement push may lead to officers targeting minorities for violations. Community groups are providing feedback to the city about the enforcement efforts with the new speed limits in an effort to prevent racial profiling by officers. However, simply reducing the speed limits and adding more signs is unlikely to eliminate the problem of collisions leading to injuries and deaths. Distracted driving and other problematic driving behaviors also contribute to the problem.
Problem of perception response time
A major factor that contributes to collision is something called the perception response time. This refers to the amount of time it takes for someone to react after they perceive a hazard. For example, when people observe other drivers pulling out into traffic ahead of them, the perception response time is the amount of time it takes them to apply their brakes in reaction to the drivers who are pulling out into traffic.
People are not able to react instantaneously to the hazards that they see. When you see something, the information has to travel along your optic nerve to your brain. Your brain must then process the information and send a signal to you to react. A short amount of time passes while this process occurs and before you are able to react.
Many people mistakenly believe that they are able to perceive everything in their visual fields equally well. However, the light receptors in the retina are packed the most densely in the central 2 degrees. When something is located at an angle of just 5 degrees, the visual acuity is just 40 percent of what it is in the central location. This means that people whose attention and eyes are not focused on the roads at all time will have much longer perception response times. If they are looking at something else, it will take them a longer time to perceive an object or person that is in their peripheral vision than one that is located where they are looking.
A driver’s perception response time in an accident may be calculated. The driver’s calculation can then be compared to what a range of drivers in a similar situation might have. For instance, one study found that drivers who were confronted with a foam car that accelerated into their lanes had PRTs that ranged from 0.74 seconds to 2.4 seconds. Attorneys could compare the PRT of the at-fault drivers in their clients’ accidents and present the information to the courts in an effort to demonstrate the visual distraction of the drivers.
Ending traffic deaths and reducing injuries is an important goal. While reducing the speed limits and enforcing them might be one piece of the puzzle, individual drivers must also do more to avoid being involved in collisions. Understanding the importance of following all of the traffic laws while also remaining focused on the road may help to prevent collisions that might otherwise occur.
Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer
Getting help from an experienced personal injury attorney is important when you have been injured or have lost a loved one in an accident that was caused by someone else. An attorney may review what happened and advise you of your potential rights. If he or she agrees to accept representation, he or she may work to recover maximal damages so that you might be fully compensated. Call the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat today to schedule your free consultation.