It was a simple question posed to Gary Richards, aka Mr Roadshow at the San Jose Mercury News. His Tuesday column mentioned the new 15 mph speed limits for school zones in San Francisco, but didn’t take a stand. I posted a quick comment on the online edition: “Hey, Gary, you didn’t say whether you thought a 15-mph speed limit in school zones in San Francisco is a good idea. What do you think?” I never expected it would be the leading question for his Wednesday column.
Before I comment on Gary’s response, it’s only fair that I take a stand. It’s even simpler: speed kills. This is not an opinion, it’s a fact supported by studies worldwide. For both stopping distances and severity of crashes, speed matters. Look at this chart showing the effect of vehicle speed on pedestrian injury.
Speed dramatically affects stopping distance, which translates to collision avoidance. According to this report: “Traveling at 40 mph, the average driver who sights a pedestrian in the road 100 feet ahead will still be traveling 38 mph on impact: driving at 25 mph, the driver will have stopped before the pedestrian is struck.”
On my five mile morning commute from Mountain View to Palo Alto I ride my bike through school zones for four elementary schools. I don’t ride directly past any middle schools, but I see a dozen or more middle school aged kids riding to school from their homes a mile or two away. Unfortunately, I see few cars respect the 25 mph speed limit, until congestion sets in just before the school day begins. The prevailing attitude is that 5-10 miles over the speed limit is “normal.” It may be normal, but it’s not safe.
As a society, we’ve lost track of the fact that speed kills. If drivers slowed down by 10 mph, people walking or riding bikes would be a lot safer. So, my take on 15 mph speed limit: If it means that majority of drivers will slow down from 30 to 20 mph, then I’m all for it. I’m sure the families of the 40% fewer children who will be killed when a collision occurs would agree (see chart). Like the family of 4-year-old Christopher “Buddy” Rowe who was killed in a Santa Rosa crosswalk on his way to soccer practice. And I’m sure the kids who would avoid being hit by vehicles due to slower speeds would agree too.
What was Mr. Roadshow’s take? Gary wrote:
“I’m all for drivers slowing at school zones at all times of the day. I wish legislation would pass allowing photo radar cameras to be used on city streets, similar to programs once in place in Campbell and San Jose. Combine that with a 15-mph limit and you bet people would slow down. The big worry isn’t just the speed of motorists, but how they drive when dropping off or picking up kids — making illegal turns, double parking, yakking on cellphones, etc. If a lower speed limit would help make them more attentive, then I’m for it.”
Thanks, Gary, I agree. I’m proud you took a stand that will surely get you a lot of flack from your readers. Bravo!
Would you support a reduced speed limit in your neighborhood? Would you change your commute route to avoid a school zone?