By Ryan McGreal
Published October 23, 2008
this blog entry has been updated
Just after lunchtime yesterday, a pedestrian was struck and killed instantly at the corner of Main St and James St. The victim, a woman in her 30s, was crossing Main St. on James St. at 12:42 PM yesterday when a cube van hit her.
This was the 14th pedestrian fatality in Hamilton this year. The Ontario average is 1.0 fatalities per 100,000 people, which puts Hamilton's pedestrian fatality rate at around 2.5 times higher than the provincial average.
Update: actually, I'm not sure whether the 14 fatalities include only pedestrians or motor vehicle occupants as well. [Ed.]
Against the predictable cries that the pedestrian should have looked where she was going, I humbly offer the following analysis:
At a vehicle speed of 32 km/h, the fatality rate for pedestrians hit is five percent.
At 48 km/h, the fatality rate is 50 percent.
At 64 km/h, the speed of the so-called "green wave" of synchronized lights on Main St., the fatality rate is over 90 percent.
Even if it was entirely the pedestrian's fault - and in the absence of a police report on what happened, that seems plausible - the simple fact is that there is a very clear exponential ratio between vehicle speed and pedestrian mortality.
The kinetic energy of a moving vehicle is calculated by its mass multiplied by a square of its speed. That means a vehicle moving twice as fast has four times as much energy - with a commensurate increase in its destructive potential.
It also means a vehicle moving twice as fast takes four times the distance to stop, which reduces commensurately the driver's ability to avoid collisions.
The simple fact is that if cars are moving slowly enough, it doesn't matter how carelessly pedestrians step out into traffic: they're less likely to be hit, and they're far less likely to be killed.
Below around 30 km/h, the fatality rate effectively drops to zero.
I suppose there's a case to be made that pedestrians who step carelessly onto the street 'deserve' whatever they get, but it seems to me that any public safety policy worth its salt must concern itself not with righteous moralizing but rather with achieving positive results.
Will anyone in Hamilton's municipal government muster up the guts to say "no more" to our deadly urban expressways?