Pedestrians are disproportionately at risk of injury and death on high-volume thoroughfares where the physics of high vehicle speeds means collisions are both harder to avoid and more likely to result in serious injury.
By Ryan McGreal
Published May 07, 2014
A 79-year-old pedestrian has died after being struck by an automobile on Mohawk Road West at Penlake Court.
According to Hamilton Police Service, the man was crossing Mohawk Road southbound when he was struck by another 79-year-old man driving eastbound in a Ford Escape. The pedestrian was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and died shortly afterwards.
A report in the Hamilton Spectator quoted Hamilton Emergency Services manager Carmen D'Angelo, who said the victim was "propelled a considerable distance" in the collision.
Witnesses are asked to contact Detective Constable Matt Hewko at 905-546-4755.
At Penlake Court, Mohawk Road West is a suburban "stroad", a four-lane thoroughfare with a centre turn lane. It is lined on both sides by residential homes, though the houses on the south side face away from the street.
Penlake is a small court with just eight houses that extends north from Mohawk. It is approximately 90 metres east of the intersection of Mohawk and Rice Avenue, which is controlled by traffic lights.
This latest fatality is part of a depressing pattern. Pedestrians are disproportionately at risk of collision, injury and death on high-volume thoroughfares where the physics of high vehicle speeds means collisions are both harder to avoid and more likely to result in serious injury.
Likewise, Senior citizens are disproportionately represented among the victims of automobile collisions with pedestrians. Older pedestrians need more time to cross the street - especially a wide street like Mohawk - and tend to have slower reaction time to avoid sources of danger.
In a 2012 Report on Pedestrian Deaths, Ontario Coroner argues that pedestrian collisions are preventable and that street design should reflect "the vulnerability of the human body".
The report recommends a "complete streets" approach to make streets "safe, convenient and comfortable for every user, regardless of transportation mode, physical ability or age." This approach entails reducing vehicle speed through both signage and design, increasing the number of crosswalks and reducing the crossing distance for pedestrians with bumpouts and islands.
The kinetic energy of a vehicle is an exponential function of its speed. If a vehicle moving at 32 km/h collides with a pedestrian, the pedestrian has a 5% chance of dying. At 48 km/h, the death risk rises to 45% and at 64 km/h, the death risk rises to 85%.
As a result, many cities around the world are adopting 30 km/h speed limits for most streets.
In Hamilton, we still engineer our streets for dangerous, illegal speeds and then chastise pedestrians to be more careful when predictable injuries occur.
Last month, RTH contributor Nicholas Kevlahan argued that it's time to regard Hamilton's streets as a design defect and issue a recall on our dangerous thoroughfares.
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