Speed Diet

By Peter DePaolis

I ended our first blog post with a startling statistic, “At 40 miles per hour, a car will travel 59 feet in a second. Studies show that a pedestrian struck by an automobile moving at that rate has a 90% chance of dying. On the other hand, at 25 miles per hour, there is a 90% chance of survival.” Clearly, speed is the number one factor that affects fatality. So why is it that most residents in DC drive like they are in the final lap of a Nascar race?

As many have seen first-hand, speeding, distracted drivers, tailgating, and running red lights are an everyday occurrence on the DC streets. This has become so routine that pedestrians have learned to give vehicles the right of way. In reality, cars are supposed to yield to pedestrians, but this courtesy often gets lost in the everyday hustle. As the Protecting Pedestrians report states, “Experts also note that lower speed helps avoid tailgating, saves gasoline, and reduces the dangers of distractions, such as cell phones and music players.” After looking at the different ways speed affects everyday driving, as well as, fatality rates, it seems that D.C. drivers need to go on a “speed diet.”

“For both stopping distances and the severity of crashes, speed matters. Travelling at 40 mph, the average driver who sights a pedestrian in the road 100 feet ahead will still be travelling 38 mph on impact: driving at 25 mph, the driver will have stopped before the pedestrian is struck.” The staggering difference in the fatality and survival rate further validates the idea that DC is in desperate need of losing a few MPH’s instead of losing more pedestrian lives. Moreover, the Council for Court Excellence brings up a valid point, if trains or airplanes had the record of deaths that pedestrians and automobile accidents have, no one in their right mind would take this mode of transportation. Yet, walking is still a main form of travel despite its alarming death rate. This parallel opened my eyes to the double standard that we allow to happen on our streets everyday.

The Metropolitan Police Department states, “On all streets and highways, unless otherwise designated, the maximum lawful speed is 25 mph.” If 25 MPH is the speed limit mandated by the District, why do so many drivers appear to have a lead foot?


Protecting Pedestrians Report

Relationship of Speed and Fatalities

Metropolitan Police Department

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.