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Slow Down: Keep Roads Safe For All Users

In this article from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on November 15, Dr. Vic Snyder, corporate medical director for external affairs at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, discusses the steps, including vaccinations, that pregnant women need to take to have a healthy pregnancy for themselves and their babies.

The most enthusiastic walkers in my family are our three dogs. A few times I tried walking all three together but quickly realized I was just one squirrel away from an ugly dragging incident, so I try to get in three walks a day.

Dr. Vic Snyder
Dr. Vic Snyder

In a lot of Arkansas neighborhoods, walks can be a delight: good weather, nice neighbors, lots of trees and flowers, even some wildlife. But I have grumbled to myself quite frequently the last year or so that traffic in our neighborhood is going too danged fast. Could it really be true that for the last 18 months when we have had fewer places to go, we have driven there much more quickly?

Well, the data has been accumulating, and it is not good. In the first six months of this year, 20,160 people in America were killed in traffic crashes, a substantial increase over the previous six-month period. The biggest contributor to the increase? Speed. And in comparison with the pre-pandemic period, not only are we driving faster, we are less likely to use our seat belts. More speed, less protection, more deaths.

Speed is not the only cause, of course. Failing to appropriately yield at intersections, being distracted by reading or sending texts or talking on the phone, and intoxicants (primarily alcohol) are also important. The tragedy is that most of these factors are things we can control.

The Federal Highway Administration website has a section worth looking over called Proven Safety Countermeasures. It is  thoughtful list of initiatives a community can undertake to make its streets and neighborhoods safer. The section called Appropriate Speed Limits For All Road Users helped me understand why I am a bit cantankerous when drivers in my neighborhood are driving too fast.

Here’s the problem: When a driver turns off Cantrell into my neighborhood, the turn is a gentle one. And right beyond the gentle curve (and the “Speed Limit 25 mph” sign) is 150 yards or so of straight road. Clearly many drivers consider 25 mph too slow for straight road.

But here is what this Federal Highway Administration recommendation is about: Driving speed should be safe for all road users, not just vehicles. In my neighborhood, a neighborhood without sidewalks, the streets are frequently used by kids, bikes, toddlers, strollers, joggers, and yard guys wearing ear plugs. Five very young and active children live in the houses on the curve at the end of the straightaway. Even 25 mph is probably too fast for most of the neighborhood if “all road users” are considered.

I am a proud participant in one of the covid vaccine studies, but here is one medical study I would not have wanted to be part of. OK, I am sure that this was not a medical experiment, but the analysis should cause us to think about our driving when we are in neighborhoods with kids, bikes, and people on the streets.

A vehicle going 20 mph that hits a bike or pedestrian has a 5 percent chance of killing or seriously injuring that person. A vehicle going 30 mph, just 10 mph faster, has a 45 percent chance of killing or seriously injuring the person hit by that vehicle.

So what do we do? Slow down. Wear a seat belt. Force yourself to drive no faster than the speed limit just so you know what it feels like. Enjoy the fall foliage. And if you see an old guy being dragged by three dogs, please help.

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