Wednesday, February 24

This is Going Somewhere

Principled Pragmatist stoked an interest I've had for a while, namely the interaction between slow moving vehicles operating IN a vehicular fashion, and faster moving ones (cars and trucks). The purest such case I know of in the US is the Amish, where buggies exercise lane control on the roads since they are simply not narrow enough to hug the edge of the road.

I made a post on that topic, here, but the link to the paper has died. Luckily, I found another place it can be found, here. If you looked at the video, it is chock full of info on how motorists should keep an eye out so they don't run into Amish buggies from behind. It's also full of info on how the Amish can better be seen from behind. If you read this from the point of view of a motorist, such as a motorist coming upon a cyclist, this seems perfectly logical. And it has some great photos of how visibility can be enhanced. However, the story deepens a bit if you also look at the second article that I referenced last June and again in this post. THIS article illustrates the vast difference between life as viewed from behind a windshield, and life as viewed behind the reins.

If you watch the video again, fast forwarding through all the actual reflectivity stuff, you'll see a strong sense that the danger is portrayed as getting run down by a motorist that can't slow down, or recognize the buggy, especially at night. HOWEVER, the study noted today concludes that most of the buggy/car crashes are actually:
· during daylight,
· on straight roadways,
· at non-intersections, and
· with no adverse weather conditions.

The cause of the crash is typically listed as “following too closely” which results in a rear-end crash to the buggy. Certainly if you just drive into the back of something right in front of you, "following too close" is an easy thing for the LEO to cite, but "straight roads" and "daylight?"

Something doesn't match here. That video is mostly visibility and stopping. Hmm...

What's MORE, if you go to the back of the study, you'll find that the law enforcement types wanted to address the "problem" by educating the Amish and making up rules for them. The Amish, on the other hand, noted that most of the crashes were with locals, with truckers much less of a problem. They also seem to feel that motorists don't understand hand signals. In the final analysis, I got a queasy feeling that the authors of the study really didn't ever get a good idea of WHAT actions, by either the Amish, or by others, could help reduce collisions, nor even what really causes those collisions. Other, tantalizingly incomplete articles are here and here.

Certainly the parallels are far from perfect. Motorists tend to overestimate the speed of buggy drivers while they underestimate the speed of cyclists. That is, I think, fortunate for cyclists because it means motorists change lanes early for cyclists. What's more, cycling accidents are mainly urban while the Amish aren't very prominent around the DFW Metroplex or other large cities. Cyclists don't have problems with runaway horses or hitching accidents. Mostly, if a wide shoulder exists, the Amish will take it in preference to the roadway. Still, there are lessons to be learned by cyclists from the Amish. One of them is that the factual data is not real easy to find without a lot of "spin."


Oldfool said...

SWMBO and I both have been professional drivers. We were trained by some very good teachers. We have driven over 1,000,000 miles and are now retired from that business. If there is anything we agree on it's the total lack of training and awareness of American drivers. It's worse in some places and better in others but the best are without any understanding or skill. Unlike Mexico which is suicidal.The USA drivers are clueless.we both drive without radio, little conversation, never a cell phone and are terrified. We consider driving as going into combat. We have even taught the grandkids to act as lookouts watching other drivers for hostile action and stupidity. We both know that it is more likely we'll die by motor vehicle rather than old age myself especially since I ride a bike.

Steve A said...

I have NEVER had any trouble from a professional driver. I'm amazed at how easy and smooth traffic is to negotiate on a bike when surrounded by big rigs out by Alliance Airport. Especially when it's just me and the trucks with no flaky car drivers around.

For the rest, I'm studying to see what I can learn from the Amish buggy experience. At least cyclists don't have to worry about their horses suddenly running off in unpredictable directions.

Keri said...

Did you mean to say motorists underestimate the speed of cyclists?

I haven't been to Ohio's Amish country. But my travel through Lancaster County, PA indicated much better driving practices by motorists than I've observed anywhere else in the U.S.

It's very sad how little training is required to get a private driver license in the U.S. It's regarded as an entitlement rather than the privilege it is.

Steve A said...

Yes, and I corrected my flip of the comparison. As far as I can determine, the driving practices may be much the same in Ohio as Pennsylvania. Absent any particulars in PA, it is impossible to tell if your experience in Lancaster might be typical of Ohio without the OSU involvement or not.

When I look at the body of the data, it is far from obvious that OSU has really got the causes or solutions right. They may well be operating from the mindset of seeking a hardware solution to a software problem. Certainly, they present no evidence that any of the "fixes" will really reduce that accident rates.

OTOH, clapping scofflaw motorists in jail for the rest of their lives would result in some reluctance to fly over hill crests without visibility, along with an increase in temptation to "run" after a hit. Extreme solutions result in the most unintended consequences.

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