Often when I am with friends the conversation turns to appreciation of my Street Scene column and traffic safety in general. Last Saturday was one of those times and excessive speed was one of those topics. It heartens me to find more people who seem to be genuinely interested in taking traffic safety seriously, adults and teens alike.
I share with you that which I relay to my friends and teenagers in school; the consequences of something going wrong in a traffic crash when excessive speed is involved.
The following is tough love sometimes difficult to comprehend, however, it is the thing your State Troopers, Fire Rescue, Local Police, and EMS must, all to often, deal with. I hope reading Street Scene today gets the message across.
All traffic crashes are traumatic and upsetting to those involved, even a low speed āfender bender,ā (notice I didnāt say minor crash) will leave frazzled nerves, towing expenses, time away from work, time and expense finding a temporary replacement (rental) car, taking children for precautionary medical check-up, dealing with auto repair shops and insurance premium increase. Even, perhaps spoiled groceries. If the weather is bad, getting soaking wet and, or cold. But ultimately we can live through it.
High-speed crashes are a different animal. This type of crash injures, maims and kills. In the most severe, the internal parts of the vehicle collapse into occupants seated in the passenger envelope. The grinding collapse is so complete, metal and glass sections of the car penetrates the interior shredding the lifeless bodies while wrapping around and capturing foot, leg and hip bone. Flesh, skull fragments, teeth, brain matter, and volumes of blood all become part of the mangled and twisted vehicle.
State Troopers, Police Officers, EMS and Fire Rescue with all the modern equipment are unable to extract all of you. You are no longer a whole unit. The majority of your lifeless broken body will go to the morgue, but in the high speed crash some of you will end up in a vehicle salvage yard.
So, how do we avoid such a devastating outcome? Drive within our traffic rules. No distractions! Most certainly, do not speed!
We are familiar with the measurement of miles per hour (mph). But what does that mean exactly? Hereās a quick way to help grasp momentum of a vehicle. Allow me to introduce everyone to feet per second (FPS). It is understanding feet per second that has teen drivers and adult drivers considerably more cautious than they were yesterday.
Hereās how: letās consider one mile per hour equals one and one half feet per second. Itās a fraction less but for quick off-the-top of your head calculation it will do just fine. Itās so important I want you to share with family and friends.
50 divided by 2 = 25
50 + 25 = 75
So when traveling 50 miles per hour you are moving along the road at 75 feet per second. On the Interstate highway traveling 70 mph you will travel the length of a football field in less than three seconds! Looking down at your cellphone can take 3 seconds. When you look back up again you have traveled 100 yards. 300 feet! If you see anything before you die, you will only see a blur. And then darkness. Your body may convulse. The human body and brain do everything possible to keep alive. But it canāt do it. The damage is too complete to overcome.
As a Trooper I arrived at the crashsite where two vehicles hit head-on. The driver and front seat passenger were as I described, mangled into the dashboard, windshield, floorboard and parts of the drive chain. The rear of the automatic transmission entered the front passengerās lower torso. The damage to these young couples bodies was total, but their bodies were convulsing trying desperately to stay alive.
It was my first such experience. I will never forget it. I donāt want it to be you!
Philip Stuart (IMPAACT.org) is a retired Florida State Trooper, traffic operations project engineer and forensics expert witness. Send questions to [email protected]
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