Thursday, August 28, 2008

Right turn, Clyde

I feel sorry for the mother in this article who lost her son to a traffic accident when he was hit by an elderly driver in an SUV. The driver of the SUV was traveling on Rt. 29 and suddenly swerved in an attempt to access the left exit for I-70W. In doing so, the driver of the motorcycle was killed. I can't even imagine what pain and suffering the mother must be going through.

As a result of this accident, the mother is now lobbying to have the left exit to I-70W from Rt. 29 closed. With all due respect to the mother, I hope she is unsuccessful in closing the left exit. I like the left exit to 70 from 29. I much prefer it to the traditional right exit, primarily because it is a more direct route is generally faster than taking the right hand exit (depending on traffic in the oncoming lane of Rt. 29, of course.) It is basically the mirror image of making a right turn on red. Furthermore, the cause of the accident was erratic driving from the 79 year old driver of the SUV, there was no inherent design problem with the left exit itself.

Since the addition of the left ramp in 2001, Buck said, there have been 10 non-fatal crashes at the site. The July 19 collision, he added, was the first fatality.

The crash data at the site does not indicate that it's a particularly dangerous intersection, Buck said.

"Strictly from an engineering perspective, there's nothing in any way, shape or form that would indicate that anything would need to be done there," he said. "Clearly, you don't ever want something like this (the fatal accident) to happen."

Llewellyn concurred that Howard police statistics "do not show an ongoing pattern of collisions" at the intersection, although further analysis is planned, she said.

This analysis squares up to my experience using the left exit as well, which I have found to be safe and convenient. Keep it open!


Anonymous said...

It's a miracle more deaths haven't occurred.

I've been with the southbound Rt 29 traffic, it's too difficult to stop when those on N 29 headed for W 70 dart out in front of the oncoming rt 29 traffic. When traveling northbound 29 to westbound 70, I use the cloverleaf unless there is no oncoming traffic on southbound 29.

It's a strange set up that drivers have difficulty judging.

Purely a miracle more harm hasn't already occurred, and all our traffic ills will be exponentiated following increasing density throughout the county.

Kem White said...

I travel south on Rt. 29 from Rt. 99 at least once every day. Impatient drivers unsafely cross over to the I-70 west onramp in front of me all the time. On numerous occasions I've had to brake.

It's not exactly the mirror image of a right turn on red because cars aren't required to stop before crossing. Indeed, many people gun their cars across a road with a de facto 70 mph speed limit to avoid stopping.

My understanding is that the elderly northbound SUV driver didn't see or else misjudged the speed and/or distance of the oncoming southbound motorcyclist and turned in front of him. He didn't swerve or drive erratically but used the crossing as intended. Through an unfortunate lapse in his judgment, a boy was killed.

More deaths will occur at that intersection.

Anonymous said...

More deaths will occur at all intersections so long as people choose to drive aggressively and put the value of their poorly managed time ahead of the lives of others.

This isn't about traffic planning, this is about common decency. If people just slowed down and drove with care, this wouldn't be an issue.

Freemarket said...

Kem White- thanks for clarifying the circumstances of the accident. When I first read the article, I thought that the SUV driver suddenly swerved to take the left exit, but that was not the case.

Regardless, I have taken that exit hundreds of times and I have not thought it to be unsafe. If the drivers on 29 South are hitting 70mph by the time they get to the exit from Rt. 99, that is appears to be the problem.

Of course more deaths will occur at that intersection, and I challenge you to name a singe intersection in which deaths will not occur. The data suggests that the exit is safe, and I hope it stays open.

Kem White said...

My speed on US29S is not the problem. The problem is drivers crossing over US29S onto the the I70W entrance ramp unsafely. Drivers turning onto I70W have a yield sign. They must stay put until it is safe to proceed. Always. Every time. We can argue what my speed on US29S ought to be. But as a driver yielding at that intersection, the onus is on you to wait till it's safe. Whether my speed is 55, 70, or 100, is beside the point. The failure to yield causes the accident, not the speed of the oncoming traffic.

The intersection appears safe to you as someone crossing US29S because you undoubtedly yield until it is safe to proceed. The intersection appears much less safe to me as a driver on US29S because impatient drivers routinely hop out in front of me unsafely. Your perception of the safety of that intersection is going to be different than mine regardless of what the data suggests.

Anonymous said...

Kem- point being, the data- which is far more important that your perception vs. FM's perception- is that the intersection is no more dangerous than any other intersection.

Anonymous said...

So, anonymous: We have to wait until multiple deaths occur so that we have data.

Kem and others like me who use South 29 know already that people dart out in front of southbound traffic routinely.

It's a matter of time. Then we'll know whose spouse, son, daughter, parent is lost.

Anonymous said...

won't happen if you just slow down.

a little personal responsibility and accountability for your own actions goes a long way to contributing to your safety and the safety of others.

Anonymous said...

Was speed a factor in the last death? I didn't think so.

If statistics are solely what you're relying on, then empirical evidence (statistics) show that speed is not a factor in fatal crash(es).

Freemarket said...

Anon 6:11, that is ridiculous. No one can draw conclusions about anything based on a single accident! Don't be silly!

Btw, the 19 year old who was killed was on a Yamaha R6, so it would not surprise if speed was a major factor, but I don't know that. Those bikes are really fast.

Anonymous said...

The motorcycle was struck by an elderly man driving an SUV - speed was not a factor, so anon 6:47 solution was inadequate.

Back to square one.

No solution except to provide a light or close the left turn onto westbound rt 70.

Kem White said...

Anon 8:34, there have been 11 crashes at the intersection since 2001, an average of 1 crash every 7.6 months. At this rate, the SHA judges this intersection to be "[not] particularly dangerous". It's not been judged "safe" or "no more dangerous than any other intersection." Presumably the SHA's "not particularly dangerous" assessment includes the severity of the crashes and not just the rate at which they occur.

What the data probably doesn't include are near misses. I've experienced several at that intersection traveling US29S. Evidently, so have a number of others considering the number of people calling for a safety review of that intersection.

In terms of risk potential, intersections are not all equal. Since 2001, there have been zero crashes at the intersection at the end of my neighborhood street. In terms of risk potential, is it no different than the RT29 intersection? Is the Rt29 intersection as safe as the one in my neighborhood? Of course not. The prudent man will work to mitigate risk in advance of the catastrophe. Now that one fatality has occurred at that intersection, it's a good time to see whether the intersection's safety can be improved.

Anonymous said...

Wrong 11:52. The only solution would be for people to stop driving and never leave their house. Then, they'd just die from a tragic fall down the stairs rather than a car accident.

1 crash every 7.6 months sounds like a good rate, especially considering the volume of cars and the single fatality.

Seriously-- Personal responsibility people. Also, know that driving comes with risk. You assume said risks when you get into a car. Driving defensively greatly reduces your risk of death. If people don't obey a yield sign, what makes you think they'll obey a light, or merge in a safe manner from the right-side exit ramp?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:48 assumes we each have control over other drivers. If this were true, personal responsibility and defensive driving would solve all likelihood of 'accidents'.

Not so.

We do not control other drivers who can dart out or cut off or, as happened to me the other day, suddenly do a 360 right in front of oncoming traffic and speed backward down a side street.

That little incident had nothing to do with my personal responsibility and I had no time to react. If I'd been one or two seconds earlier she would have taken me out.

Freemarket said...

All drivers need to exercise personal responsibility, the "other guy" just as much as anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Realistically what are the chances that everyone will be responsible 100% of the time?


Freemarket said...

Anon 1:09- So how should that impact our policy?

There is not a single driver out there who can't be safer at some cost, and those costs are not necessarily financial in nature. Heck, we could probably eliminate ALL traffic fatalities by strictly enforcing a speed limit of 10 miles per hour. We could even require a device to be installed on cars to physically limit their engines from generating the output required to reach more than 10MPH. But there would be a cost, in terms of time, convenience, etc.

We have to do the cost benefit analysis, not try to put everyone in a bubble.

Anonymous said...

A bubble would consist of your 10mph analogy, not the request for a light or removal of the ramp.

Anonymous said...

several hundred online have signed this peition: