Category Archives: safety

36th and Equestrian traffic circles

Ahwatukee is getting two traffic circles courtesy of the City of Phoenix’s collector street mitigation project. One at Equestrian Trail and Appaloosa Drive, and the other at 36th and Coconino Streets. At the same time, the bike lanes were re-configured on 36th Street. Equestrian Trail also has a bike lane; that has not been altered other than to allow for the circle. Continue reading 36th and Equestrian traffic circles

Driver confesses to hit-and-run killing

Marcello  Rojas, 43, the driver of a 2006 BMW was stopped for speeding June 9 ~ 10pm — this is unrelated to the crash. At that time he told police “he hit a guy on a bicycle”. According to police the victim, Billy Ray  Thompson, was riding westbound on Broadway “perfectly legally” which i took to mean, but the story doesn’t elaborate, that he was properly lighted/reflectored. No dui is suspected.

News reports: AZ Rep, ABC15 #1, ABC15 #2

This is one of a chain of similar fatal hit-and-runs in Phoenix that occurred in summer of 2009.

The Case

Superior Court Docket, case number CR2009-138233. According to the minute entry on 2/9/2010 Rojas plead guilty to hit-and-run w/death and was sentenced to 7 weeks in county jail with credit for 52 days already served (which i take to mean, he’s done with jail already); and a year probation.

According to the minute entry that went over the plea deal; apparently by pleading he got 28-661 knocked down to a class 3 felony (leaving the scene of a fatality that was not his fault. Versus a class 2 if it was his fault). Then, for whatever reason, for the purposes of sentencing this is considered a “non dangerous” offense. Which I guess is why it comes with such a piddly sentence.

2009 AZ Cyclist Fatality Grid

Crashes are the Leading Cause of Death…

I found this image lurking on the NHTSA website. MVCs (Motor Vehicle Collisions) are always the leading cause, though the exact ages vary from year to year, e.g. from Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes as a Leading Cause of Death in the United States, 2000 “motor vehicle traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for every age 2 through 33”. Note that this ranking is all inclusive; thus it includes things like suicide, homicide, and so forth.

Just like everything else in life, there are some nuances that are worth understanding. The simplest distinction is between internal (think disease) and external (think any sort of accidental death; car crash, drowning, falling…). These distinctions are detailed in the technical report, e.g. Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes as a Leading Cause of Death in the U. S., 1997 (emphasis added):

“As a major external cause, traffic crashes are the prime cause of accidental death in the United States, and this has been true for many years. Thus, for persons of all ages, traffic crashes alone in 1997 caused almost one-half of all accidental deaths that occurred….  “

For example, from Exhibit 5 here are the top 5 causes of “accidental death” for both sexes combined. MVCs DOMINATE the rankings.

  1. Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes 42,340
  2. Falls  15,477
  3. Poisoning  10,163
  4. Other and Unspecified Causes (including suffocation which was #4) 5,207

MVC’s (Motor Vehicle Collisions) are so horrifically high, that they have even snuck into the debate over Universal Health Care in the US. It seems that “unnatural” causes of death (MVC being the prime category) are so high in the US that they have significantly depressed our life expectancy. By adjusting the life expectancy data for all the OECD countries (except Luxembourg), the US catapults from last to first place! This is all according to University of Iowa researchers  Robert L. Ohsfeldt and John E. Schneider.

nhtsa 810936 Leading Causes based on 2005 data

 Updated for 2009 data

“Motor vehicle traffic crashes were the leading cause of death for age 4 and every age
11 through 27 (based on latest available 2009 data)”
Source: National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Mortality Data, 2009… quoted from NHTSA Quick Facts 2012.

Photo unit snaps GOP party chief speeding 109 mph

This is just too wild to not comment on. Never a dull moment here in Arizona with respect to photo enforcement! Two weeks ago the world’s first photo radar murder and now we have a politician (he’s not a legislator, he works for the party) *arrested* for criminal speeding and reckless driving.

How will this play with the County Attorney’s pronouncement (see Thomas says no to criminal speeding) that he will not prosecute any criminal case based solely on photo evidence? Continue reading Photo unit snaps GOP party chief speeding 109 mph

Negligent driver who killed 5 gets 1-year sentence

At this stage, with the investigation into Allen Johnson’s death still pending — there is understandably a lot of conjecture regarding what charges may be brought, or not brought, as the case may be.

I’ve seen this movie before, and the outcome is (almost) always the same — there are only two things that (reliably) bring criminal charges. They are DUI and leaving the scene.

If the exception proves the rule, and I think it does, take a deep breath and read the results of this quintuple homicide. This case gives one answer to the question: exactly what can a negligent driver do (besides the two aforementioned things) to get indicted for murder?

Laurie Roberts did a great job of bringing this story to light in her column (alternately see Laurie’s blog and entry on the same subject and the aftermath). A news story ran in the East Valley Tribune.

The synopsis is, in case the links to those stories disappear: Robert Logan Myers III plead guilty to five counts of Neg Hom stemming from a collision where he was speeding and ran a red light colliding with a left-turner. In the deal where he got 1 year in jail (the nominal sentence would be 5 time 2.5 years), work release for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, payment of restitution of about $451,000, 4 years of probation. No mention of his driver’s license — of course how would he get back and forth from jail every day without one?!

The outcome of this, albeit highly unusual prosection, makes me wonder if pursuing criminal charges, heretofore what I considered the “holy grail” of holding someone responsible is the way to go. There must be a better way. ??

More Photo-enforcement in the WSJ

On the heels of last weeks “front pager” — Jenkins thows in his two cents in today’s column The War on Short Yellows. His punditry is undoubtedly astute: “One Arizona sheriff recently proved you could get elected by opposing speed cameras”. He should have stopped there, since his analysis of safety is lacking. Firstly, he either doesn’t know, or doesn’t let on, the scope of the problem. To put it simply, traffic collisions are the leading cause of unnatural death for all Americans (link to reference here)… this is a huge problem.

And the problem is even worse in Arizona; something he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about. Arizona rates (even after some fairly large improvements in recent years) far above US averages in both per capita fatalities, and fatalities per 100M VMT. So it should probably come as no surprise that the authorities in Arizona are trying out things like photo-enforcement. Which he, reflexively, believes is basically a jack-booted government gone wild.

He goes with the typical cannard — that supposedly the collisions prevented represent only a small fraction of all collisions. His exact stat was “Consider: Red-light running and speeding, the two main uses of traffic cameras, are implicated in fewer than 8% of accidents”.  He doesn’t reveal a source (possibly a talking point from the NMA?), I’m guessing it is 3% + 5%, and also guessing it’s the national causastion survey. In any event, the weakness is that these collisions are far more freqently fatal. Arizona has a particularly high fatal red-light running rate.

He even brings up Britian, yet he either doesn’t know, or doesn’t let on that Britian experienced a precitious decline in fatality rates through the 1990’s — coincident with the rise in photo-enforcement. Are the two related? One wonders, but Jenkins apparently doesn’t care or wonder. By the way, fatality rates are far below US rates (both per capita, and per VMT).

His solution? lengthen yellow lights. This would undoubtedly reduce violations. But unless the yellow is “short” (shorter than engineering standards) there’s no indication this would reduce collisions, though. And as to the other ten’s of thousands of deaths annually? Well he doesn’t even have a suggestion for that.

Is it safe to go to Mexico?

With all the negative press surrounding Mexican narco-violence lately , the following theme should sound familiar to azbikelaw readers:

Though the U.S. government says its records aren’t comprehensive, the leading cause of unnatural death in Mexico for an American tourist — by far — is car accident, according to State Department data…

Is It Safe to Go to Mexico? Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2009

I could do without the “accident” — the preferred term is “collision” or “crash”.