Guns Don't Kill People, Speed Bumps Do!

Let's use our heads on traffic calming rather than our hearts.

There's a love for speed bumps and humps in Takoma Park.  I mean a real, tall love.  A love so tall it smacks the bottom of your car.

When a resident of Takoma Park sees a speeding motorist, they immediately run to City Council demanding a speed bump. The problem is, speed bumps don't work as desired and cause more problems than they solve--the worst of those consequences is killing people.


The conventional wisdom is that speeding cars are killing our children.  Putting a speed bump in place slows cars down, thus saving dozens, perhaps hundreds of flattened kids. Unfortunately, that's not true.

What they actually do is slow responding emergency vehicles. In a heart attack or other serious medical situation, seconds become crucially important.  An ambulance is delayed for each speed bump by five to ten seconds.  Multiply that delay by ten speed bumps on your way to the hospital, and you've delayed your arrival by nearly two minutes.

Two minutes?  That's all?  That shouldn't make a difference?  But it does.

One report from Boulder, Colorado, suggests that for every life saved by traffic calming, as many as 85 people may die because emergency vehicles are delayed. It found response times are typically extended by 14% due to speed-reduction measures. Another study conducted by the Austin, Texas, fire department showed an increase in the travel time of ambulances when transporting victims of up to 100%.

Emotion causes people to request bumps.  But data shows that those bumps do more harm than good.  Are you so worried about speeding cars that you're willing to risk the certain death of your neighbor having a heart attack?  Perhaps City Council Member Seamens is. He commented at the May 23 meeting that a speed bump he's familiar with "worked as intended and hasn't created a dangerous situation at all."  Apparently, for Mr. Seamens, killing heart patients is just what we intend in Takoma Park.

Don't care about data on deaths? Well, speed bumps actually increase speeds between bumps. Drivers jump on the gas peddle and accelerate faster than the speed limit after the bump. So while your kids may be safer, your neighbor's are road-kill.

And boy are those bumps bad for the environment <cough, cough>. When people gun the engine after that bump, their cars pump out pollution. That pollution increases asthma in children, heart conditions in older folk, and warms up the planet. Again, do a Google search and you'll find study after study showing fuel economy reductions and pollution increases. Takoma Park wants to decrease greenhouse gases and other pollutants, but these propagating speed bumps only increase them.

And if you're a bicycle commuter, forget it.  If Takoma Park were really interested in slowing speed and making things safer, it would encourage bicycling. But building more speed bumps makes it very dangerous for bike commuters, I can assure you.  Don't see a speed bump?  Crash.  Don't slow down well below the speed limit?  Bike damage. It would be ironic if, in a move to make streets safer for kids, we caused more kids riding bikes to crash and get injured.

But there are tons of effective alternatives to speed bumps.  Narrowing streets, choke points, roundabouts, chicanes and other measures all slow cars and don't slow emergency vehicles.  They also don't screw with bicycles.

Want to reduce speed on your street?  Lower the speed limit to 15 miles per hour then enforce the hell out of it.  Ticket people constantly.  I'll bet you'll find a lot of residents who love their bumps, but also love to speed!

People get frustrated--we're all frustrated at asinine drivers.  And speed bumps look like a quick, easy, and cheap solution.  But when you investigate, study after study shows they don't work.  Don't succumb to emotion.  Instead take the time to advocate for effective solutions without the negative side effects.

Say 'no' to reactionary thinking and 'hello' to creative traffic-calming solutions!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Steve Davies June 04, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Good points all. Here are a few more. In addition to the increased pollution caused by slowing down and then speeding up, the bumps (which vary in height and design) cause more damage to cars, which means more repairs (and of course, more money coming out of the pockets of city residents. They also slow down public transportation -- Ride-On buses, e.g. Speed humps and other traffic "calming" devices (the quotation marks are used to call attention to the earth-shaking noise caused by large vehicles hitting the humps, rattling windows and china cabinets) are often also installed in the hopes of keeping out "cut-through" traffic, as if the people driving through our neighborhoods come from an alien world. In reality, they are just people -- many of them your neighbors or fellow city residents -- who are simply trying to get to work, take their kid to school, or get to a business. They're driving on your street because it's the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B. Chances are, you've cut through someone else's neighborhood at some point in your life. Not everything is located on the main arteries. Takoma Park ought to be working to remove all the speed humps in the city, not install more. The way we're going, however, pretty soon every street will have humps.
Joe Edgell June 07, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Also worth noting that installing speed bumps may reduce cut-through traffic on street A, but then just moves it to street B. The traffic is still in Takoma Park. Then, of course, street B gets bumps and the traffic just goes back to street A. I highly doubt that a City with speed bumps on every street would see a reduction of cut-through traffic. Anyone have any data to the contrary?
Frank W. Chupka April 05, 2014 at 10:27 PM
stupid liberal story. no...guns don't kill people...bad people with guns kill people. I have guns...they have never hurt anyone
Christine April 05, 2014 at 11:01 PM
Speed bumps are a huge issue for me. Especially those big ones that bump and scrape the bottom of my car, no matter how slowly I drive over them! There MUST be an easier way to discourage speeding!
Ays Kofi April 06, 2014 at 01:19 AM
This all sounds kinda familiar when people respond to a situation with emotions instead of real hard facts. Sounds a whole lot like the folks who have been responding to the gun debate. If you think we should disarm everyone do a bit of research on what happens to the crime rates. Cut and past the URL below. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=crime+in+the+UK+after+gun+control
Joseph April 06, 2014 at 04:57 AM
Don't take a Dodge Neon over a speed bumb-no matter how slow you try to cross it you might get stuck on it. Happened to me in Pittsburgh.
Joseph April 06, 2014 at 06:17 AM
Starla April 06, 2014 at 06:55 AM
Dumb stupid story. Speed bumps are there to slow traffic. If your car still scraps, then you're going too fast. As far as killing people, anything can delay the arrival of an EMS. I live in a good sized condo complex with lots of children. Without the speed bumps, people drive like they're on a race course. Are we going to say its ok if the occasional child gets flattened? I don't think so.
Reader April 06, 2014 at 09:04 AM
For everyone killed by a speeding car 85 people die because of speed humps? Is this the Onion? There is certainly no reliable data to back that up. Over 4000 Americans are killed by speeding cars each year. By your estimate then 340,000 people die a year because of speed bumps, a significant portion of all Americans who die of any cause at all. That you deliver this nonsense with a straight face discredits your whole argument and your ability to think critically.
Ben Levy April 06, 2014 at 02:00 PM
Reader, re-read that. They didn't say "For everyone killed by a speeding car" they said, "for every life saved by traffic calming". Two different things. If the pre-speed bump fatalities were 100, and post-speed bump fatalities were 99, then 1 life was saved, and they are saying that 85 people will then die because of emergency vehicle delays. I find this very odd. Not impossible- a lot of reality is odd. Still, I would like to see sources before I believe such a claim.
Dusty754 April 06, 2014 at 02:26 PM
So when these speed bumps are installed, leaving a path open to allow emergency vehicles to get through would help.. It looks like three bumps across the road where the emergency vehicle goes down the center line and its tires fit betwen the three speed bumps, straddling the center bump.
Ned April 06, 2014 at 04:00 PM
For all you speeders out there who are not in favor of bumps; if you dont like em dont speed and they will go away or not be requested. We had two put in our subdivision. No more damaged cars, destroyed mailboxes or threatened children. Its also quieter and the street has a lot less traffic.
Lxix Isee April 06, 2014 at 06:30 PM
Neighborhood watches with bricks should slow speeders down.
Edward Hilferty April 07, 2014 at 06:52 AM
Guns do kill people, I would bet in USA more are lamed or killed by accident than intention. I am a former hunter and gun owner. I don't object to sport guns at all, auto-loaders are not necessary. They were banned when I was a kid, only .22 cal pistols were allowed. No sportman hunts with ak style weapon, I prefer a Ruger single six myself.
Bubbawubba Gump April 07, 2014 at 10:21 AM
We have speed bumps (sleeping policemen) all over Florida, they are just ways to have police do less work. I drive a pickup and if you hit them at 43mph they actually bump less than at 25. Also, don't these idiots notice that police cars not only try to avoid streets with speed bumps, they never set up traffic watches on them. So a speed bump actually makes your street LESS safe.
Burt April 07, 2014 at 12:52 PM
you all have it wrong ! Lack of sex kills people. We all need to get our cardio rate up and that is the best way. Hvae sex today and save a life !


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