“Multiple lane threat” crashes

Multiple travel lanes pose a particular risk to pedestrians crossing the street, even in crosswalks:

A multiple-threat pedestrian crash is a crash type that occurs when a motor vehicle in one lane stops and provides a visual screen to the driver in the adjacent lane. The driver in the adjacent lane continues to move and hits the pedestrian. (Source: National Center for Safe Routes to School)

Source: Federal Highway Administration

Last summer, a car struck a pedestrian in the crossing at Marathon Street in what seems to have been exactly this type of accident:

Police talked to a witness, who said she was traveling west on Mass. Ave.  [in the right lane]…when she stopped to let a pedestrian cross who was walking in the crosswalk. She said the vehicle to her left did not stop and then struck the victim. (Source: YourArlington.com)

Fortunately, design can eliminate this kind of accident completely by specifying a single travel lane. The proposed design for Mass. Ave. would do so for almost the entire length of the outbound lane.

Unfortunately, the threat will still remain when crossing the two proposed inbound lanes. Please, everyone, be careful!

9 comments so far

  1. Mark Kaepplein on

    My Mazda Miata doesn’t seem to screen pedestrians, so I endorse we all drive motorcycles and smaller vehicles on multi-lane roads and restrict SUV’s, trucks, and minivans to single lane roads. Its similar to how New York bans commercial vehicles from parkways.

    Seriously, safety Nazi’s made this problem worse by requiring child car seats. Its back breaking to get kids in and out of vehicles low enough to not screen pedestrians. Parents are thus encouraged to buy bigger, taller vehicles that require less bending over. The better alternative was to use seat belts that accommodate smaller passengers.

    Similar bad ideas are still getting forced on us.

    • Cheryl on

      Are you serious? I have a small sedan and no problem whatsoever getting my child in and out of her seat.

  2. Mark Kaepplein on

    The referenced news article covers two accidents. The second may have been prevented if a wider or second travel lane existed. The driver was too close to a man getting into his car and grazed him.

    • Adam Auster on

      Oh, come on, Mark. You’re pulling my leg, right?

  3. Mark Kaepplein on

    OK, a little…to make a point that so many arguments for and against can get into speculation. Most of mine are around the politics, who is making the design decisions, and how they are made. For example, who has vetoed pedestrian refuge islands? On a 4-lane road, they are a good place for more visible signal lights than overheads.

    How about speculation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that new texting bans didn’t reduce accidents because texters now held phones lower, below window level to not be caught, and lost peripheral vision of the road, leading to accidents, offsetting any avoided? Oh, we didn’t think of that… again (because lawyers/lawmakers think to restrict people against human nature, rather than work with it).

    How old is that FHA drawing? 1970’s? ’80’s? We don’t have long, low land yachts and station wagons now, its more taller SUVs and pick-ups. The latter another shift encouraged by laws, or, rather exemption from some, lowering cost. More bad policy.

    • Adam Auster on

      A few quick responses (to those things in your comment that actually relate to Mass. Ave., that is):

      1) Don’t write off refuge islands yet. There is a lot of support for them and they can still be added in subsequent design phases.

      2) It does not matter how old the FHA drawing is. The retro look just means no tax dollars have been spent prettying it up. It deftly illustrates a real hazard.

      I’ll also mention that the subject of this post, multiple-lane threat, is no joke.

      We can’t know for sure what the driver in the Mass. Ave accident would have done had she seen the pedestrian. We don’t even know for sure that this was a multiple-threat accident (though it sure sounds like one).

      But we do know that going to a single lane eliminates all multilane-threat accidents. That’s not counter-factual supposition, it’s fact.

      You show a playful awareness of the unintended consequences of public policy. I’ll just suggest that we tend to get into trouble when we substitute gut feelings for data, and we should especially value and respect the facts we have.

  4. Charlie on

    The multiple lane threat is very real. Just try it yourself! Cross Mass Ave at any of the many unsignalized crossings in North Cambridge/Porter Square. Even if the car in the closest lane stops the one in the next lane may not!

    It really irks me that there are two lanes going inbound in the Mass Ave Arlington design. It really is totally unnecessary. Other than providing some queuing space at rush hour, it just encourages people to pass in the left lane, usually, driving far too fast. I’d much rather see strategically placed left turn pockets. It probably should be two lanes approaching Route 16, but that’s it!

    • Adam Auster on

      Charlie, according to the Town’s engineering consultants, morning rush-hour traffic volumes inbound between Bastes Rd. and Lake St. exceed the capacity of a single lane.

      Seems Bates is a feeder route for people coming from north of Mass. Ave., while many people turn off at Lake.

      Bartes to Lake, inbound only, is the only part of Mass. Ave. where two lanes are needed to accomodate traffic volumes.

      • Charlie on

        Thanks Adam. I was not aware of that!

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