Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Crashes cost more than congestion

with 4 comments

New Mexico Business Weekly 

Traffic crashes in Albuquerque cost $1.2 billion annually, six times more than the costs associated with traffic congestion, according to AAA New Mexico.

“Crashes: What’s the Cost to Society?,” a report conducted for AAA by Cambridge Systematics, reveals that in most areas of the country, the cost of traffic crashes far outweighs the cost of traffic congestion. Those costs include emergency services such as medical and police, property damage, lost productivity and reduced quality of life.

And I would be very surprised indeed if that were not also true here. Accident severities are directly related to speed, and as my regular readers are probably tired of hearing by now, our current lack of speed limit enforcement is the why our collision rate is not declining and why severities remain high. In slower moving traffic, collisions still occur, but tend to be fender benders rather than personal injury accidents. Of course that is talking about vehicle collisions with other vehicles. Collision with softer targets – cyclists and pedestrians – are quite a different matter.

If we are not going to see photo radar back, or a serious deployment of average speed cameras (which do not use radar) the it is time to look at traffic calming measures – including speed tables which can also be incorporated as pedestrian crossings which eliminate steps or ramps at curbs, and thus improve everyone’s mobility. For while few of us may be in wheelchairs the use of strollers, shopping trolleys and rolling luggage seems to be on the increase. Since most urban streets are posted at 50kph speed limits, a table would work better than a speed bump – which is more useful at lower posted speed limits. Bike lanes inside the line of parked cars would also be a good idea – though passengers are even less likely to do a shoulder check than drivers before opening their door, there are fewer of them. Jan Gehl says they work well, and that is a good enough endorsement for me.

Mostly though what this study suggests is that we should deliberately shift our focus away from getting traffic moving faster – which is what  most highway expansion and traffic management here is supposed to do – to reducing the dreadful carnage on our roads. We do not accept crashes when they occur on planes or trains. Two people die on a ferry sinking and all kinds of action swings into play. But two deaths in a road crash will probably not even get covered by the local press in any detail and “lost control” seems to be accepted as an adequate explanation for all kinds of incidents on the road.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 6, 2008 at 11:16 am

Posted in Road safety

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. The cost of crashes — yet more evidence of the astronomical subsidy of the private car.


    March 6, 2008 at 12:52 pm

  2. “As vehicles pass between the entry and exit camera points their number plates are digitally recorded, whether speeding or not

    Erm, nice. Orwell would be proud 🙂

    Seriously, I don’ t see how these would be any different from Photo Radar, the “problem” there had more to do with issues other than the underlying technology being radar, laser, or what have you. These cameras look like they could be better at catching speeders though, with PR they had problems with muliple vehicles showing up in the photos on multi-lane roads, this system looks like each lane has its own cameras.


    March 6, 2008 at 1:44 pm

  3. PS, wordress turned my hand typed emoticon into a graphic smiley which does not necessarily represent the emotion I was trying to convey 😉


    March 6, 2008 at 1:46 pm

  4. David please add a link to your quotes so I can source it.

    Cameras and number plate matching software are already widely used for traffic surveys. This technology simply works out the average speed each vehicle moved at when it passed two fixed points. For somewhere like the Patullo Bridge that is a lot better than photo radar since speed is reduced along the whole length of the area monitored not just in the immediate vicinity of one camera – whether it is in a van or a yellow box makes no difference.

    Stephen Rees

    March 6, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: