Another Case for Speed Cameras: Young Kids Can’t Hear Oncoming Cars

The Wall Street Journal yesterday published the results of a study on how sensitive kids and adults are to the sounds of oncoming vehicles. The findings should be a wake-up call to parents of young children in NYC, where speeding in the vicinity of schools is rampant.

Marty Golden doesn't want speed cameras near NYC schools, where motorists are putting kids' lives at risk.

Using headphones to listen to the sounds of a car approaching at 5, 12, and 25 miles per hour, participants pressed a computer key when they heard the vehicle, when they identified its direction, and when they thought it had arrived at their location. From the Journal:

Adults detected the car significantly earlier than children, though 8- and 9-year-olds heard the car before 6- and 7-year-olds. Adults detected the vehicle traveling at 5 miles per hour at a distance of about 48 feet, compared with 35 feet for younger children and 41 feet for older children. On average, the vehicle was significantly closer to children than adults when it was detected.

Researchers found that the car was detected earlier at 25 mph, when the noises were loudest, but noted that pedestrians have less time to react to faster-moving vehicles, which are more likely to cause serious injury and death. The study said that the detection abilities of kids age 10 and older tend to resemble those of adults. “Older children were better than younger children at determining when a vehicle had arrived at their location,” the Journal said.

The Journal points out that the study did not include environmental sounds that pedestrians usually are exposed to, in addition to car noise.

The study was published by Accident Analysis & Prevention, and was funded in part by Nissan.

Data from NYC DOT show that at 100 locations, 75 percent or more drivers were found speeding within a quarter-mile of a school. DOT wants speed cameras placed near city schools to slow drivers down. While it has the support of NYPD, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and the State Assembly, NYC’s first-ever speed camera program has run into opposition from State Senator Marty Golden, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, and AAA New York.

More than 13,000 children ages five to nine are struck by motorists while crossing the street in the U.S. every year, according to figures cited by the Journal. According to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, at least six kids under the age of nine have been killed by NYC motorists since March 2012. Speeding was the leading factor in fatal NYC crashes last year.

Streetsblog has an message in with Golden’s office concerning his reported campaign to keep speed cameras out of NYC.

(h/t to krstrois)

  • Anonymous

    I’m trying to understand the City DOT stat reported above, that “75% or more [of] drivers were found speeding within a quarter-mile of a school.”

    What, precisely, does that mean? That, of all vehicles observed to be in motion w/i a 0.25-mile radius of the schools in question, at least 75% of them were observed at each moment to be traveling in excess of the posted speed limit?

    If that limit is, say, 20 mph (reduced from the city-streets-standard 30), then I can grasp the picture painted by the stat. But I have a harder time if the speeding benchmark is 30 mph. That three-quarters or more of vehicles are *always* exceeding 30 mph (which is what the stat appears to say) strains credulity, notwithstanding the chronic lack of driver due care — given occasional traffic lights, stop signs, mini-traffic jams, etc.,

    I’ve looked at the DOT press release on school speeding, and it’s no help re how the stat was derived. Can anyone out there shed some light on this?

  • Joe R.

    I think if a vehicle speeds at least once, even if only for moments, within 1/4 of a mile of a school zone, it’s included in that 75%. That’s the only way these figures would make any sense. The average and median speeds of free-flowing traffic near school zones would be a much more relevant figure I would think than the percentage of speeders.

  • Anonymous

    @disqus_dlP91vGbzC:disqus I agree on all counts, Joe. But I still don’t quite get how even speeding just once (or not) would be measured. Wouldn’t some monitor have to follow every vehicle that appears w/i 1/4 mile of the school in question, for the duration of its trip within that radius? How, exactly, would that be done?

  • Joe R.

    You make a good point about exactly how data like this would be gathered. One way would be putting a GPS on every car and downloading the data later (this obviously wasn’t done). I might guess they simply set up radar stations at a few locations within a 1/4 mile of a school, logged the speed of every passing car, discarded data during times when traffic was slowed by lights or congestion, and arrived at the 75% figure. Of course, this methodology pretty much makes the data worthless and useless, but as we both know, it isn’t hard to gather a set of data which supports any conclusion if you’re willing to discard portions of your data set.

  • Anonymous

    Bingo. Thanks Joe.


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