A fatal accident after a short high speed chase in Folsom demonstrated just how dangerous high speeds can be.
Early Thursday morning on December 15th, officers checked the license plate number on a car they observed driving in the Arden-Arcade area. When they found that the plates had been reported stolen, the officers attempted to pull the car over. Instead, the driver took off, leading the officers on a chase down Madison Avenue and over Rainbow Bridge at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. When the driver attempted to make a turn just after passing over the bridge, she attempted to make a turn, but was unable to keep the car on the road and crashed into the storefront of a hair salon. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officials haven’t yet determined why the Folsom car accident victim chose to flee the scene—unless the driver had an extensive criminal history, she may not even have faced any jail time. Unfortunately, she chose a course of action that will ultimately have to serve as an object lesson for others: Just how dangerous it is to drive at high speeds.
Basic driving maneuvers, such as braking and turning, become extremely dangerous at high speed.
The victim of Thursday’s accident didn’t collide with a vehicle or some other moving object that magnified the force of the crash. She crashed into a stationary object—a building—simply because she couldn’t control her car.
You may recall taking a driver’s education course as a teenager, and being taught about how the distance it takes to stop increases disproportionately compared to increasingly high rates of speed. This is because of two key factors:
- The faster you’re going, the farther you travel between when you see an obstruction or hear someone yell at you to stop and when you can actually react and hit the brake. For an alert person in ideal conditions, this takes about two-thirds of a second. Some researchers refer to the distance traveled during this reaction period as the “thinking distance.”
- Because of the way physics works, the amount of energy a moving object has (and the amount of energy needed to stop it) increases exponentially. This means that when you go twice as fast, it doesn’t take twice the distance to stop—it takes about four times the distance.
A few years ago, British researchers performed tests to demonstrate how long it takes to stop a car at increasing speeds on dry roads. When you take their results and place them in a graph, this is what you get:
At high speeds, driving on surface roads becomes impossible.
As you can see, stopping distance gets out of hand pretty quickly. At 30 miles per hour, it takes about 75 feet to come to a stop. At double that speed, 60 miles per hour, the total stopping distance more than triples to 239 feet.
The speed limits on Madison Avenue near where the victim of Thursday’s accident crashed are about 40 miles per hour. At that speed, stopping would take about 120 feet. Based upon the British data, it’s possible to extrapolate that on dry roads (it was raining on Thursday morning), it would have taken the victim about 600 feet to come to a stop from her maximum speed of 100 mph—five times the distance. You could hit the brakes half a block before an intersection and not stop until half a block past it. (If you’d like to get a feel for how long it takes to brake on varying road conditions, check out this online braking distance calculator.)
Now imagine trying to perform more complex maneuvers, such as making turning, doubling back, and so on. As the victim of Thursday’s accident learned at great cost, surface roads simply aren’t made to accommodate vehicles traveling at those kinds of speeds. At that point, forget trying to avoid moving objects—such as other cars or pedestrians—simply staying on the road becomes a near impossibility.
If a police officer pulls you over, please don’t try and escape. Chances are that you’ll only get yourself killed, or seriously injure or kill other people, resulting in charges far more serious than what you would face if you simply pull over. Trust our experience: we’ve handled thousands of personal injury lawsuits. Avoiding a ticket or a few months in jail isn’t worth somebody’s life.