Is Distracted Driving the new Drunk Driving?

motorists – excerpt

Ever wonder why someone might take the wrong turn? Given this image, you can see that the “Do Not Enter” sign is on the right side of the triangular land mass that separates the streets. People who are not familiar with the area, might think the sign is directing traffic away from that street. Is driving down a Muni tunnel entrance like this a case of distracted driving, bad signage, or both?

Distracted driving of any kind can be instantly dangerous. Each April the federal and state governments conduct a public awareness campaign on the dangers of distracted driving that bombards motorists with media messages which leads to increased command-and-control enforcement. There can be many different distractions for drivers but among the most controversial is the use of a mobile electronic device while driving. Drivers should normally refrain from texting while driving. The best way to encourage behavioral change is through ongoing driver’s education and awareness not through government micromanagement. Motorists need to beware that distracted driving does not become the new drunk driving in both stigma and penalties.

Much has been written about the increase in overall traffic fatalities for the past two years which many attribute to distracted driving. The federal government cannot ban distracted driving and instead has encouraged statehouses to deal with the problem. Thirty-nine states have already banned text messaging while driving. Ten states plus Washington DC have banned the use of hand held phones entirely. Should states then criminalize behavior that all drivers engage in?... (more)

Traffic Safety Advocates Form Human Chain To Protect Tenderloin Bike Lane

by Walter Thompson : hoodline – excerpt

Calling attention to what they say is the city’s failure to protect bike lanes in high-injury corridors, approximately 15 traffic safety advocates formed a human chain this morning on Golden Gate Avenue near Market Street.

Dressed in yellow T-shirts donated by road-safety advocacy group San Francisco Municipal Transformation Agency (SFMTrA), participants stood in a bike lane and joined hands to create a barrier between motorists and cyclists…

Last month, Muni proposed scaling back a parking-protected bikeway on Turk Street—another corridor in the High Injury Network—to a paint-buffered bike lane, similar to the one on Golden Gate Ave. The change was proposed after fire department representatives said the new configuration made the street too narrow for emergency vehicles… (more)

Almost every speed limit is too low

By Alex Mayyasi : qz – excerpt

“We all speed, yet months and months usually pass between us seeing a crash,” lieutenant Megge tells us when we call to discuss speed limits. “That tells me that most of us are adequate, safe, reasonable drivers. Speeding and traffic safety have a small correlation.”…

This “nationally recognized method” of setting the speed limit as the 85th percentile speed is essentially traffic engineering 101…

Luckily, there is some logic to the speed people choose other than the need for speed. The speed drivers choose is not based on laws or street signs, but the weather, number of intersections, presence of pedestrians and curves, and all the other information that factors into the principle, as lieutenant Megge puts it, that “no one I know who gets into their car wants to crash.”.

So if drivers disregard speed limits, why bother trying to set the “right” speed limit at all?…
This is important because, as noted in a US Department of Transportation report, “the potential for being involved in an accident is highest when traveling at speed much lower or much higher than the majority of motorists.” If every car sets its cruise control at the same speed, the odds of a fender bender happening is low. But when some cars drive 55 mph and others drive 85 mph, the odds of cars colliding increases dramatically. This is why getting slow drivers to stick to the right lane is so important to roadway safety; we generally focus on joyriders’ ability to cause accidents—and rightly so—but a car driving under the speed limit in the left (passing) lane of a highway is almost as dangerous.

Traffic engineers believe that the 85th percentile speed is the ideal speed limit because it leads to the least variability between driving speeds and therefore safer roads. When the speed limit is correctly set at the 85th percentile speed, the minority of drivers that do conscientiously follow speed limits are no longer driving much slower than the speed of traffic. The choice of the 85th percentile speed is a data-driven conclusion—as noted lieutenant Megge and speed limit resources like the Michigan State Police’s guide—that has been established by the consistent findings of years of traffic studies…

If people and politicians do want to reduce road speeds to improve safety, or make cities more pedestrian friendly, Megge says “there are a lot of other things you can do from an engineering standpoint.” Cities can reduce the number of lanes, change the parking situation, create wider bike paths, and so on. It’s more expensive, but unlike changing the number on a sign, it’s effective…

In its 1992 report, the US Department of Transportation cautioned, “Arbitrary, unrealistic, and nonuniform speed limits have created a socially acceptable disregard for speed limits.” Lieutenant Megge has worked on roads with a compliance rate of nearly 0%, and a common complaint among those given traffic citations is that they were speeding no more than anyone else. With higher speed limits, Megge says, police officers could focus their resources on what really matters: drunk drivers, people who don’t wear seat belts, drivers who run red lights, and, most importantly, the smaller number of drivers who actually speed at an unreasonable rate.

It seems counterintuitive, but it’s a formula Americans should love: Raise speed limits, make roads safer…

Lose your car over a parking ticket? San Francisco scrutinizes harsh punishments

…Around 4,000 cars get sold off in San Francisco every year because their owners can’t pay. Rowe herself knows two other people who have lost their cars because of parking tickets. I spoke with one man who was living in his car while he worked a retail job. After his car got towed, he not only lost the place he slept every night, but he also lost his job. His car was eventually sold off by the towing company…

Financial Justice Project

To many in city government, these punishments are too severe–among them are San Francisco’s treasurer. So the city established a program called the Financial Justice Project to look for ways to make smaller fines more fair to poorer residents…

Ferguson is a city of 20,000 people; in 2013 there were 30,000 citations in a single year. After that report on Ferguson, San Francisco City Treasurer José Cisneros wanted to start tackling the problem locally. He started the Financial Justice Project in the fall of 2016…

Basing fines on a person’s income

Income-based fines are already common in parts of Europe, and was attempted in the U.S. thirty years ago. Judith Greene, who created those programs in New York City and Phoenix, AZ says they worked well. “More people paid in full and the court system actually ended up collecting more money.”…

San Francisco is in a good position to tackle this: it’s a well-off city with a lot of economic inequality. But Stuhldreher worries that other municipalities might not have the same momentum…