Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not even close

On my way to work yesterday, I heard a news story about a national traffic safety campaign focusing on red light running.  The story quoted a National Highway Safety Traffic Administration study which purports to show that running red lights is the leading cause of urban traffic crashes. 

“No,” I said to myself, “that can’t be.”  It certainly has not been my experience, at least not here in the 71st largest city in the United States.  In my view, by far and away the most common cause of traffic crashes in Lincoln is a combination of distracted driving and following too close: all those rear-end collisions that normally result in the driver being cited for Negligent Driving.

When I got to the office, I looked up the most recent traffic crash analysis report from the Traffic Engineering staff at Lincoln’s Public Works Department.  The graph on page 18 shows 2010 crashes by type:


Don’t misunderstand me: red light running is a significant problem in Lincoln, and everywhere else.  But in terms of traffic crash causation, putting down the cell phone (and the toothbrush), and leaving a little more space between the vehicle ahead, would be the most effective way of reducing crashes in my neck of the woods. 


Anonymous said...

I enjoy digging into these crash studies. Sometimes, the actual stats contradict conventional "wisdom", as they do here in the example you presented. When driving, my biggest concern is being rear-ended by some inattentive dolt, and for good reason. I also get a slight pucker factor when navigating our most high-crash intersections (27th & Vine, 56th & Old Cheney, etc), which is probably a side-effect of reading those studies.

On a related note, I'm pretty sure that the UCR tells us that about twice as many people are murdered with fists and feet as are murdered with rifles of any type, including so-called "assault-type" rifles.

H said...

Speaking of following too close: It sure would be wonderful if LSO and NSP were to spend some time on Highway 6 between Interstate 80 and Ashland. I have to drive that way a couple times per week for my job, and the double trailer gravel truck drivers are not at all shy about passing, following too close, and generally boorish behavior if you dare to try and drive at the speed limit. I understand they are seeing the same piece of road fifty times a day; I understand they get paid by the trip and not the hour; I even understand that the little cars and SUVs are slowing them down. However, if they keep insisting on owning the road, they'll need to own the damage and injuries caused also.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I need a carpenter to do body work on my car.

Anonymous said...

Parking is the third greatest risk of your car being involved in an accident.

Anonymous said...

OK, I understand "rear end," "right angle," "sideswipe," and so on, but that smallest category has me scratching my head. How do you crash from "overhead" while driving?

Anonymous said...

I have been riding motorcycles for 50+ years. The one sound that will cause brown spots in a motorcyclists underwear is the dreaded sound of screeching brakes from behind while stopped. I make it a habit to ALWAYS stop slightly to the left or right of the car in front of me. Then if I hear that screecdhing sound on my six I will not end up as the sandwich filling in a rear end accident. That habit saved me again while stopped at a light on 27th and "O" Street recently. I was able to move ahead and keep from getting hit. The car screeching to a stop finally stopped about six inches from the bumper of the car I had stopped behind.
Gun Nut

Grundle King said...

"red light running is a significant problem in Lincoln"

And yet, it seems the focal point of LPD's traffic enforcement is for speeding, not traffic lights.

It would be interesting to know how many of those crashes were related to exceeding the posted speed limit. I would imagine that a lot of the rear-end and right-angle crashes come during the winter when people slide forget that ice is slippery.

Anonymous said...

Tom-Not to diminish red light violations, but I'd bet that a significant number of the 1354 right angle collisions involved failure to yield right of way versus running a light.

Not surprisingly, HUA continues to be the major contributing factor in rear end collisions.


Steve said...


Did you get rear ended by the pirate bike?

Steve said...

Just got back from Sturgis. They seem to get by just fine with stop signs and traffic lights at the intersections. Of course, with a quarter of a million bikes at any given time in a town that size, you can pretty much turn the engine off and walk it down the street. It really cuts down on serious accidents, though. The thought of roundabouts there makes me dizzy.