We were all recently deeply affected by a recent accident involving a toddler boy one mile from my home on Sunday March 8, 2020. The boy was walking on a sidewalk with his parents when a twenty eight year old driver jumped the curb, and hit the boy, killing him. The Scottsdale police initially stated that "speed is not a factor" in the accident. Despite skidmarks on the pavement and several feet of tracks on the grass, speed was determined to be not a factor. But what does this actually mean?
When our dad was hit and killed as he was walking his dog, the driver was going estimates as high as 48 mph on a residential street posted 35 mph. Again, Scottsdale Police determined speed was not a factor. This seems silly to me. We all had that same story problem in grade school math, if 2 trains leave the station at the same time, but one goes 40 mph and one goes 35 mph, will they arrive at the next stop at the same time? Of course not. I printed up the street from the driver's starting point up to the presumed point of impact. The accident occured at approximately 4:07 pm. So I used google earth, the rate of speed and speed per foot etc (more extensive buy simplifying for this blog) and determined the point that Paige Dembow would have arrived at 4:07 pm. Almost 30 feet from where she impacted with our dad. Armed with this information, we presented this to Scottsdale Police sargeant.
Then there is the issue of speed and injuries. The average risk of death for pedestrians is 25% for 32 mph. At 50 mph that risk jumps exponentially to 75%. If Paige Dembow was driving the speed limit, our dad would have had a significant chance of surviving the injuries. But again, if she wasn't speeding, he would have had time to take that last footstep out of her path.
Control of your vehicle is also impacted with speed and affects stopping distance. Reading a five second text while driving 55 mph makes your vehicle a deadly object traveling the length of a football field blindfolded. If you are watching the road, the stopping distance is the number of feet you travel before you identify a perceived danger, the time to move your foot onto the brake and then the time it takes the brakes to stop your vehicle. Every increment increase in speed increases this distance.Sounds like common sense to most of us. At 20 mph the total braking distance is 40 feet and at 60 mph the braking distance is 240 feet. In the case of little John Mahlke, the toddler that was killed on sunday, the skidmarks and grassmarks and inability for the driver to control the vehicle hint at speed (and distraction in my opinion)
So why do police label an accident as "speed not a factor"? The faster a vehicle travels, the greater the accident risk. This is the number one reason that speed limits are lower in residential neighborhoods and school zones. And speed deters a driver's ability to notice a danger and maneuver around it. However, in accident investigations, police use the label of "speed not a factor" when the driver is not driving above the posted speed limit but not necessarily driving slow enough for conditions. However in our case, Paige Dembow was driving an estimated speed of 48 mph on a residential street. I believe she was driving faster than this as police didn't use my dad's extensive injuries in order to determine her speed.
Here we are now in 2020 with distraction and drug useage at an all time high. it is estimated that speed caused over 9,000 fatalities in 2018 alone. Couple that with distraction and impairment and the numbers skyrocket.
Little John Mahlke, the toddler that lost his life due to distracted driving, lets all drive this week in his honor and put the phone down.