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Philadelphia’s Driving Culture Kills

Tragedy on the Boulevard

Many people still remember the early-1980s arcade game, ‘Frogger’.  For those unfamiliar, Frogger required the player to navigate numerous lanes of a busy highway while avoiding cars, trucks and other hazards.  If your Frogger was hit by a vehicle, your turn would end and you would have to start over.  In Philadelphia we have unfortunately created a real-world version of Frogger — except here the consequences are real as hard-working Philadelphians continue to be unnecessarily maimed and killed.

Philadelphia’s infamous Roosevelt Boulevard is a hotspot not only for car accidents but also for pedestrian fatalities.  Every couple of weeks, and sometimes every few days, comes a new report of drivers and motorcyclists being seriously injured or killed due to the driving culture on the Boulevard.  Unfortunately, over 150 people have lost their lives due to traffic accidents on the Boulevard since 2001.

In 2008, Mayor Nutter recognized the Boulevard as being, “one of the most hazardous roads in America”.  This began a $3.2 million campaign to improve safety.  These efforts included an education campaign, installation of pedestrian countdown timers and a designation as a highway safety corridor.  Despite these efforts, there has been an average of 1 fatality a month through the first four months on 2014.  As the weather improves and people spend more time outdoors, the fatality rate can only be expected to increase.

As an attorney who frequently works with drivers and pedestrians who have been severely injured on the Boulevard and throughout Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, I see the consequences of recklessness and negligence on the road which includes broken bones, concussions, whiplash, severe burns, and spinal injuries. Considering the severity of the injuries and the devastation they cause to peoples’ lives, I am pleased to see that the city has finally recognized that past efforts to correct this major problem have been insufficient.

Speed Cameras May Offer a Near-Term Solution

In July 2013, Samara Banks and her three sons attempted to cross the 12 lanes of traffic on Roosevelt Boulevard.  They were killed by a speeding vehicle that was allegedly involved in a drag race. Drawing inspiration from this tragedy, the family members of Ms. Banks have testified before the State Senate Transportation Committee in Center City, Philadelphia.  Along with Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, they have advocated for the legalization and subsequent installation of speed cameras along the Boulevard.   While the ultimate long-term solution is to reduce the width of the road, this option is billions of dollars and years away.  In the meantime, it is anticipated that speed cameras will significantly slow the flow of traffic thereby reducing the number of accidents on the roadway.

How Will the Speed Cameras Work?

Under the legislation proposed by State Senator Michael Stack, the speed cameras will be limited to only Roosevelt Avenue.  The cameras would issue tickets to drivers who exceed the speed limit by more than 10 miles per an hour.  The tickets would be for $100 and would not include an assessment of points on the driver’s license.  Stack states that police would review the tickets before they are mailed out to offending drivers.  This review is likely to avoid the problems and scandal that have plagued the implementation of speed cameras in Baltimore.

No Magic Bullet?

Despite the high hopes for the program in Philadelphia, previous attempts at speed camera systems have been rife with errors and inaccuracies.  Issues with the speed camera program in Baltimore have included:

  • A leaked internal audit showing error rates forty-times greater than those previously reported.
  • AAA mid-Atlantic roadside assistance vehicle was clocked at 57 miles per an hour despite being idle at a red light.
  •  Citations issued for speeding in a school zone were issued despite no nearby schools.
  • Tickets have been issued to deceased motorists.
  • Tickets have been authorized by a police officer who had passed away.
  • The suspension of the speed camera system in April of 2013 due to the pervasiveness of errors.

However despite these difficulties AAA mid-Atlantic, a major advocacy organization on behalf of motorists, still supports the use of traffic speed cameras.  It recognizes that were the cameras are conspicuous or appropriate signage makes them obvious to drivers, behavior changes.  The organization points to reduce speeds in highway work zones throughout Maryland.

How Can the Program be Successful in Philadelphia?

While the speed camera program has potential, city officials should draw from the experiences and lessons from nearby Baltimore.  To begin with, accountability is key.  That is, there must be oversight of the program to ensure that Philadelphians are not issued bogus tickets. Further, the deal structure should not incentivize issuing tickets; rather a fixed or flat fee for administration should be decided upon.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the cameras must be conspicuous to drivers.  The cameras are intended to deter drivers from speeding, but if motorists are unaware that the cameras are present then the behavior will not change and traumatic injuries will continue to occur on the Boulevard.

Let us Guide You Through Your Personal Injury Claim

Regardless of whether you were injured as a pedestrian or a driver, you should not have to pay for the negligence of another.  The Reiff Law Firm has handled personal injury and wrongful death cases for more than 34 years.  To speak confidentially with an experienced catastrophic injury attorney, call us at (215) 709-6940 or contact us online.

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