The Safety Street Q&A series features NCSR partners, industry leaders and other notable transportation organizations who are working towards the collaborative goal of safer roads.

Anthony Weinmann has worked as a paramedic in Pittsburgh for 30 years. For the past 6 years, he’s served as President of the Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics Local 1, the union that represents the city’s 160 paramedics.

Safety Street had the chance to  ask Anthony about some of the traffic safety problems he and his members face every day.

Safety Street: How much of your work  revolves around responding to automobile collisions?

Anthony Weinmann: A significant amount of our time is spent responding to automotive crashes across the city. Pittsburgh EMS Rescue is the only entity that is responsible for rescue situations.  There are two trucks designated to rescue 24/7 that are equipped with tools like the “Jaws of Life,” which are designed to enable rescuers to remove people out of the entrapments that often result from car collisions.

Safety Street: What do you think is the most common cause of auto collisions?

Anthony Weinmann: In my experience alcohol plays an important role in vehicular collisions. in addition, most collisions occur at areas such as intersections, stop signs and red lights. I think most problems originate from people being in a hurry, trying to beat a light or cruising through a stop sign.

Safety Street: Do your members respond to many collisions with pedestrians and cyclists?

Anthony Weinmann:  Definitely. Many of the car incidents we respond to involve pedestrians.  It may be when they are walking, crossing at intersections, or riding on their bikes.

Safety Street:What is the number one thing drivers in Pittsburgh and across the country could do to be safer? What is the most important tip you would give them?

Anthony Weinmann:  Distraction while drivers are talking and texting on their cell phones have increased in recent years.  It is becoming more common and more concerning, and the consequences can be devastating. I can’t stress enough the importance of the following four points: wearing seat belts; storing cell phones while driving; obeying traffic lights and driving at posted speeds.

Safety Street: Pittsburgh City Council recently voted to authorize red-light safety cameras. What was your reaction to the news?

Anthony Weinmann: I was pleased, as were my members.  We believe the cameras will help decrease the number of crashes that involve running a red light. It will make people more aware of the lights and less likely to speed up to “beat” them.

Safety Street: Why does your organization support the use of red-light safety cameras?

Anthony Weinmann: We believe the cameras will lead to a reduction in collisions and a reduction in injuries. That’s our bottom line. Paramedics believe overall safety will improve once people realize that they will pay a price for running red lights, even if police officers aren’t able to monitor every corner.  Our job is saving the lives of people who are in injured during crashes. Reducing the number of people who are injured unnecessarily is an objective we all support.

Safety Street: Is there a particular part of Pittsburgh where reckless drivers are a big problem?

Anthony Weinmann: It’s hard to narrow it down to a single area. As with many communities, there are many busy intersections in town and not just one problematic area. Some areas of town that are particularly vulnerable to problems are those that have a large amount of traffic or major roadways.

Downtown and Oakland where the universities and hospitals are, including the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, are both found to be especially problematic when it comes to pedestrian and cyclist collisions.

The Safety Street Q&A series features NCSR partners, industry leaders and other notable transportation organizations who are working towards the collaborative goal of safer roads. 

Founded in 2002, Bike Pittsburgh is a charitable non-profit that works on behalf of the Pittsburgh community to make the city safe, accessible, and friendly to bicycle and pedestrian transportation. Eric Boerer has been a safety advocate nearly a decade. He started with Bike Pittsburgh part time in 2005 and is now its full time Advocacy Director. Safety Street had the chance to ask Eric about his views on the value of red-light safety cameras for cyclists in Pittsburgh and across the country.

Safety Street: What is the biggest challenge that cyclists face on the road?

Eric Boerer: The biggest challenge is aggressive driving. It’s something that I feel has changed dramatically over the years as more cyclists appear on the road. Thankfully, drivers have been improving in recent years, but it only takes one aggressive driver to ruin someone’s day or ruin someone’s life. Aggressive driving is probably the thing that scares Bike Pittsburgh members the most.

Safety Street: What’s the number one thing you hope drivers will keep in mind?

Eric Boerer: What Bike Pittsburgh is really trying to do with its driver education programs is humanize cyclists. Bikers are just normal folks trying to get somewhere. We could be your cousin, your doctor, your teacher. We’re not out there trying to annoy anybody, we’re just trying to get where we’re going.

Safety Street: The Pittsburgh City Council just approved a rule allowing red-light safety cameras in the city of Pittsburgh. What do you hope will be the outcome?

Eric Boerer: For one, we hope the outcome is that people actually stop at red lights. The cameras work, according to our research. Overall safety will be improved once people start obeying the law. On a broader level, it raises awareness of traffic safety in general.

Safety Street: Bike Pittsburgh has been an outspoken supporter of red-light safety camera technology. Why do you feel red-light safety cameras are so critical to cyclists?

Eric Boerer:  It’s about safety. Any tool that helps police enforce safety on our streets is good for cyclists and really good for everyone who uses the roads. Once people think there’s a chance they could be penalized for doing something illegal, they’re far less likely to do it.

Safety Street: In Pennsylvania, fines paid by red-light runners will go in part to funding safety projects for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Are there are strong cycling safety projects on your radar?

Eric Boerer: We’re working on bike lanes throughout the city in many different neighborhoods. Last summer, we released the Better Bikeways vision, which outlines that system. They’re bike lanes that encourage physical separation between cars and bikes. We’re trying to step up the level of bike lane beyond just a stripe on the road, whether that is in the form of painted lanes or in some cases concrete. Some additional funding for safety improvements could make current lanes safer, too.

Safety Street: Which neighborhoods in the city do you think are best for cycling? What are they doing right?

Eric Boerer: Last spring, the city painted intersections on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield at the Bloomfield Bridge. Where cars need to cross bike lanes in order to turn, the city painted the lanes bright green, which helps raise awareness to the driver that there could be a cyclist in the lane.

The East End plateau has some of the best areas for cycling, because it has the best access to parks and the most bike infrastructure in place on the roads now. It helps that it’s one of the flattest areas of the city. The city has responded to that success by adding more bike lanes.

Safety Street: In your opinion, which neighborhoods in Pittsburgh are the next big thing for cycling?

Eric Boerer: We want to focus on Oakland and downtown Pittsburgh next. In August of this year, Pittsburgh will be launching its first bike share. That means there will be a lot of new people riding bikes in those areas.

Oakland has the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, meaning more than 40,000 students attend class within one or two square miles. Thousands of students ride bikes already or would ride them if the streets felt safer. Given how congested that area can be, and how much foot traffic it gets, it seems like a no brainer to make it as safe as possible for bikes.

 

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) helps save lives and protect communities by demonstrating how red-light safety cameras can improve driver behavior. 

The Safety Street Q&A series features NCSR partners, industry leaders and other notable transportation organizations who are working towards the collaborative goal of safer roads.

Alton Loper was a Police Detective in Chester, PA serving in the Police force for 27 years. In that time he responded to more collisions than he could possibly count. He has been a long-time advocate of red-light safety cameras in Pennsylvania and wishes his city could utilize this life-saving technology. Safety Street got to talk to Detective Loper recently about his views on the value of red-light safety cameras.

What kind of collisions have you seen during your time as a police detective?

It would be easier for me to explain what kind of collisions I have not seen.

during my career as a police detective. I have seen almost every crash you can possibly imagine, from a driver being decapitated by a flying object from another vehicle, to little children struck on their bikes, to the total shut down of highways and streets, because of collision. I once witnessed a tanker truck crash that closed down a portion of I-95 for three months. The number of motorcycle collisions I’ve witnessed are too numerous to even mention. I’ve see too many fatalities to last a life time.

Do you support the use of red-light safety cameras? And if so, why? 

Yes I support the use of red-light safety cameras, because they deter people

from running red lights. It is a proven fact, that if you are caught once, you are very cautious of every red light that you come upon afterwards. It changes the way a person drives going forward.

Do you view cameras as valid alternative to having a police officer sit and monitor an intersection?

Yes I do. Red-light safety cameras free up police manpower, since they don’t have to

assign any patrol cars to monitor the intersection or traffic light. In this day and age police have far more important things to do than sit at an intersection and monitor traffic light violators.

To learn more about Mr. Loper’s opinions on this topic, read his recent letter to the editor from the Delaware County Daily Times.

 

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) helps save lives and protect communities by demonstrating how red-light safety cameras can improve driver behavior.  

 

The Safety Street Q&A series features NCSR partners, industry leaders and other notable transportation organizations who are working towards the collaborative goal of safer roads.

Tom Hanley’s life abruptly changed forever when a shuttle bus driver transporting his entire wedding party ran a red-light. His best friend and wedding officiant was killed instantly in the tragic collision and Tom suffered injuries that still affect him today. Since the accident, Tom has worked closely with NCSR to share his story as a cautionary tale of the consequences of red-light running.

Safety Street had a chance to speak with Tom about the collision that changed his life and his thoughts on red-light running and road safety. Read the Q&A below to learn more:

You have a very powerful story. Can you briefly describe your experience with red-light running and how it has affected you?

In June of 2010, I was on board a commercial vehicle for a wedding here in Indianapolis with close friends and family.  Our driver failed to stop at a red light and collided with an SUV, which caused our bus to flip on its side.  My best friend Jim was partially ejected from the bus upon impact and died instantly. In addition, I suffered two broken vertebrae and a brain injury, both of which continue to impact me more than three years later and will most likely play a role for the rest of my life.

Jim, myself, or the other 12 other innocent passengers on the bus had a reasonable expectation for an attentive commercial driver in control of our bus. Instead, we had a driver that, without any real explanation, was improperly licensed to drive the vehicle, ran a red light and forever changed our lives. If he had properly stopped at the intersection, Jim would still be here today.

Has your experience changed the way that you approach driving and road safety?

From a young age, I have traveled a lot and always made the effort to be acutely aware of avoiding distracted behavior while driving. I have always tried to make driving my complete and total focus while behind the wheel.  My experience made me realize that no matter what I do, I can’t control what other drivers around me are doing. I pay very close attention now when entering intersections, no matter how long I have had the right of way, to check and see if vehicles might be running a light as I enter. I also typically wait a split second after a light turns green to allow for anybody who was trying to beat a yellow light to enter and exit the intersection.

In my collision, we had a driver who carelessly ran a red light. No matter what qualifications somebody may have, their carelessness can still cause injury and death to innocent people.

You have been a long-time partner of NCSR, using your story highlight the message that red-light running has serious consequences. Why is it important to you that drivers change their behavior in and around intersections?

The sights and sounds of my accident are something that will haunt me forever.  In a perfect world, not a single person will have to try and revive their best friend in the moments after an accident; not a single person will have to carry the weight that there was nothing that could be done to save them; and not a single person will ultimately have to learn that their accident was caused by a red-light runner.

Not paying attention, trying to beat a red light or simply disregarding a signal can impact innocent bystanders for a lifetime. I live this reality every day.  I miss my friend Jim all the time, as do the family and friends he left behind.

I know you are also a very active cyclist. On that front, what dangerous habits and road safety efforts do you regularly encounter?

As a cyclist, we have the same rights and rules of the road as any motor vehicle and I make sure to respect the same rules as if I were driving my car. Not all drivers are aware that cyclists have the same rights and many drivers don’t realize the speeds that can be carried on a bicycle. Therefore, I always try to make eye contact with drivers as I approach an intersection and I always try to anticipate what actions drivers will take as I approach. Even if I have the right-of-way, I’ll still come out on the losing end of a collision with a car so I make sure I am aware of what is going on around me.

What road safety policies and behaviors would you like to see implemented more across the US?

I would like to see more standardized enforcement of existing red-light running laws. Specific to our experience, I’d like to see better enforcement of commercial vehicles.  Our driver walked away with $150 ticket for running a red light, despite the fact he killed one, injured 14 others and was improperly licensed to be driving the commercial vehicle.  It is my goal that my ongoing work with NCSR will help carry a vocal, serious focus on the dangerous consequences for red-light runners not just here in Indiana, but across the country.

 

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) helps save lives and protect communities by demonstrating how red-light safety cameras can improve driver behavior. 

The Safety Street Q&A series features NCSR partners, industry leaders and other notable transportation organizations who are working towards the collaborative goal of safer roads. 

Joseph M. Fiocco brings more than 25 years of experience to his firm, Fiocco Engineering, LLC, which specializes in highway safety and traffic engineering. A registered professional engineer in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania,  Joseph also serves as the appointed traffic engineer for Lower Southampton Township in Bucks County, Pa. Since 2010, his firm has worked with a large network of public and private sector engineering partners in the Delaware Valley to develop safer, more efficient roads. Safety Street had the chance to talk to him about ways engineering and technology are making our roads safer.

Safety Street: Is traffic safety a problem in your community?

Joseph Fiocco: I think the better question to ask is: are we doing everything we can to reduce crashes on Pennsylvania roads? Last year in Pennsylvania, 1,310 people were killed in motor vehicle collisions. Of these, 65 were killed in Bucks County, where I live and work. Clearly, there is much more we can do.

Safety Street: Can you tell us a little bit about your role and experience in traffic safety?

Joseph Fiocco: I’ve completed hundreds of highway safety studies throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These safety studies ranged anywhere from investigations into a single vehicle crashto complete corridor studies. I’ve done road safety audits and traffic impact studies. I’ve also designed a number of traffic signals, so I understand the costs associated with the design, construction and maintenance of these controls.  The goal is to maximize safety and minimize delays, while staying conscientious  of what is reasonable and affordable. For many municipalities these days, resources are limited and the biggest challenge for any community project is funding.

Safety Street: Pennsylvania recently passed a law that allows more municipalities to consider red-light cameras at dangerous intersections.  As an engineer, do you see advantages from these cameras?

Joseph Fiocco: I have extensive experience with traffic signals, multi-way stop analyses and traffic control designs. Red-light cameras have been proven to reduce illegal red-light running and improve safety at intersections. In Bucks County, three communities (Falls, Middletown and Warminster Townships) are among the municipalities now eligible to consider red-light cameras in Pennsylvania. I recommend these municipalities give the safety devices a serious look. Anything that has the potential to save lives at a reasonable cost should be considered.

Safety Street: Some people argue against safety cameras in favor of re-engineering. Is it either/or, or both? What are your thoughts?

Joseph Fiocco: There is no one, single answer. We should consider all the tools available when it comes to saving lives and reducing injuries.  Red-light safety cameras aren’t the answer to all of our road safety problems, but they definitely are a very cost-effective part of the solution. There’s also an added benefit for municipalities in terms of overall public safety that shouldn’t be ignored.  Police officers who previously had to sit and monitor an intersection in order to catch red-light running violators can now patrol nearby neighborhoods and increase the level of security for us all.

To learn more read Mr. Fiocco’s recent letter to the editor in the Bucks County Courier-Times.

 

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) helps save lives and protect communities by demonstrating how red-light safety cameras can improve driver behavior.

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