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May 15, 2008

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nakman

Nice to see you've joined the Internet. (not to ignore your articles posted on this web site). Long time follower of your print and TV contributions over the years.

Jim, you've been quite an advocate for automobile drivers and most commentaries have been spot on. Maybe you have already addressed my question in the past but, where do you stand on red light cameras? Similar to photo radar or do they have merit on their own?

I support any safety measure we can put in place. However, I'm not quite convinced these cameras make the difference our Government claims. I feel they are addicted to the revenue they generate more so than safety. I've read some interesting articles based in the USA that indicated there was a higher collision rate in some intersections from drivers that brake quickly and get rear- ended. (Although these would be minor compared to tee-bone collision) all to avoid the fine.

Do they really prevent or reduce the deadly collisions our Government says they are trying to prevent?

I'm not saying I want to run red lights. I guess if I wanted to, I would borrow someone else's vehicle to do that since, the ticket goes to the registered owner and not the driver.

It's easy to shoot down this point of view since, my social circle seems to disagree and thinks I'm supporting red light runners. I think we can re-design intersections in that regard and for those in a rush, they can get stopped by the police and ticketed like any law-breaking citizen.

Hi Nakman:

First, thanks for the kind words.

I think red light cameras are not at all similar to photo radar. Speed per se is not a problem on our highways - it is the objective.

But running a red light? As you say, because tee-bones are among the most difficult to survive, we have to do whatever we can to eliminate it.

Maybe red light cameras are not THE answer, but I think they can be a part of the answer. It may take some adjustments on the part of us drivers, but sadly, with the delayed greens we have everywhere, that just encourages "crossing" traffic to run the yellows.

In some countries in Europe, they have a "Christmas Tree" green light like a drag race. You're facing a red, the yellow goes on for second, then the green goes on. Most drivers have about four grand on the clock, and when that green lights up, they're off like Big Daddy Don Garlits. Crossing traffic learns pretty quickly that you don't run a yellow or THEY'LL get tee-boned.

I doubt we'll ever have those sorts of lights here, but red light cameras seem to be the best alternative.

Jim

Bernard

Hello Mr. Kenzie,

Very happy to see some direct channel to communicate with you.

I've been reading your articles since 1983 when I came to Toronto from Kitchener, Ont. You even gave me advice on how to properly store my new car for the winter months.

People are driving faster and more dangerously these days but I think it is more scary to see how pedestrians cross roads and walk in parking lots. Please start a category about pedestrian safety so that we can have a discussion on this subject.

Thanks and I wish you a very successful blog life!

Hi Bernard:

1983? That's when I started at The Star! Yep, next week is my 25th anniversary. Thanks for staying with me all these years. Hope that car survived the winters well.

I'll have to ask my blogging coach how to set up a different category - that's beyond my current expertise.

But for sure, pedestrians account for a big chunk of traffic casualties, and we don't always think about them when talking traffic safety.

Ironic but not surprising that alcohol plays a huge role in pedestrian fatalities too.

Certain jurisdictions mainly in Europe are now introducing car crash standards for pedestrian impact. These include hoods that deform in a controlled way, which means more space between the hood and the engine to allow the sheet metal to give to absorb the impact, and computer simulations to see exactly how the pedestrian hits the vehicle. Typically, the pedestrian gets literally cut off at the knees, the head pivots down and bashes in the centre of the hood, and/or, depending on the speed of the impact and the design of the car, strikes the base of the windshield, where the wiper arms often cause serious damage.

The blunter front end of the new (well, current) Mazda MX-5 Miata was designed expressly for this purpose, and you will see fewer low, pointy, cow-catcher-style front ends on cars as these standards come into play.

Meanwhile, it is incumbent on both motorists and pedestrians to respect each other's spaces. Pedestrians have to be very careful because the odds are clearly against them.

I had a history teacher in Grade 10 who collected epitaphs. (Yeah, he was a bit weird.) The only one I remember is:

"Here lies the body of Jonathan Ray
Who died defending his right of way
He was right, dead right, as he walked along
But he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong."

Bicyclists and motorcyclists also take note.

Cheers,

Jim

anonymous

"Part of this is highway design: the driving lane (the right lane for most; the left lane in England) almost never disappears. People can be confident that they can sit there doing whatever speed they choose, and neither get run off the road by a transport truck, nor have the lane disappear by magically turning into an off-ramp.

This would take a week and a few hundred litres of lane-marking paint to fix here, but I can't get Canadian highway designers or the provincial Ministry of Transportation to even recognize it as an issue."

I could not agree more Jim on this. I recently drove more than eight thousand kilometers on highways in France, Italy, Switzerland, UK, Belgium, and Germany, and never once have I encountered a lane that magically turns into
an off ramp. It is indeed puzzling to me that Canadian highways are designed so that in many places a lane can turn into an off ramp after travelling on the lane for a long distance. The only conclusion that I can come up with, is the following:
- Canadian engineers are far less intelligent than European engineers to have designed highways in such a way in the first place.
- Canadians are far less intelligent than Europeans to not even know that this is a problem..

Bob

Hi Jim,

We've corresponded via email a couple of times over the years and I've been reading Wheels since its inception. Congrats on your 25 years!

On reading your blog articles to date, you've been busy but you haven't 'ranted' on one of favourite topics, which is traffic circles. I was in Calgary a few weeks ago and when I encountered the intersection of Hwy 1 and Deerfoot Trail I couldn't help thinking what you would say about it. Here's what it looks like:
http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=hwy+1++calgary+alberta&sll=49.891235,-97.15369&sspn=38.151281,76.992188&ie=UTF8&ll=51.066815,-114.027062&spn=0.002259,0.004699&t=k&z=18&iwloc=addr

It's essentially a giant traffic circle with traffic lights on it. To enter or exit the Deerfoot Trail, you need to pass through 3 sets of lights. To merely pass through the intersection you need to cross 2 sets of lights. Calgary's got a lot of space so I guess somebody decided to have some fun with the design and the expense of efficiency and common sense. Who over-engineered this thing?

Keep up the good work and keep blogging,

Bob

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