Road Access for Disabled Americans
= less new,
= least new
Slowdown to Emergency Response
Disabled people are often dependent upon, and aware of
their dependence upon, prompt response during both fire
and medical emergencies. In cities where the impact of
traffic calming on emergency response is carefully evaluated,
the studies show an increased response time.
Speed Humps = Greater Risk
"Speed trapped", Orlando Weekly, Jeffrey C. Billman,
August 17-23, 2000
"...the 259-page master's thesis recently written by
Austin, Texas, Assistant Fire Cheif Les Bunte. In
"Traffic Calming Programs and Emergency Response: A
Competition of Two Public Goods," the 27-year
firefighting veteran makes a startling observation."
"Using a detailed formula developed by Boulder, Colo.,
scientist Ray Bowman, Bunte determined that in Austin,
at least 37 people would die because of slower emergency
response time for every one life saved by slower traffic.
Since Bunte took into account only deaths from sudden cardiac
arrest - and not from delayed fire response or any other
condition - that number could be higher."
[RADA: Viewing the manuscript
file requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. The manuscript file is 1.27 MB.
The text of
Chapter 5, Civil Liability Issues is available in HTML format.
The link to Ray Bowman's analysis is given below.]
IAFC members -
To obtain a copy of the report referred to in "On Scene", email
Canadian Fire Fighters Oppose Devices
- IAFF Canadian Journal, Volume 4, Issue #1, 2000
"Traffic Calming Devices - Why fire fighters have given them a rough ride..."
- "Speed bumps are a workplace hazard for fire fighters."
- City Councillor, Peterborough, Ontario
- "...speed bumps 'have significantly reduced the response times of all
emergency vehicles responding to 911 calls, jeopardizing the lives of the
citizens within our communities.' "
- "...speed bumps are a no-win situation for fire trucks. If taken
at any speed, they can result in fire fighter injury - even seat-belted fire
fighters can strike their heads on the roof of the cab, and there are cases
of vertebral compression leading to permanent disability. On the other hand,
slowing a truck for speed bumps or navigating other traffic calming devices
adds to response time, crucial seconds at a time when every second counts."
- "We've had injuries and guys on WCB because of speed bumps." - Ron
Phillips, President, Nepean IAFF Local 1487
- "...the devices 'throw a loop into the driver's concentration.' "
- Bill Cole, President, Ottawa IAFF Local 162
- "...fire vehicles have sustained suspension damage after passing
over speed bumps."
- Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (1999 Convention
in Windsor) resolved to align itself with other emergency care responder
unions that are "against such devices being implemented on public streets."
Negative Impact on Emergency Services
- Excerpts from Memorandum by the Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions
30th April 1999 (Britain)
"3. Road humps have a far greater impact on vehicles
than other traffic calming features. Research has
shown that they can be difficult for large, wide axle
vehicles to traverse unless the humps are specially
designed to accommodate such vehicles. An inevitable
result of their shape and design is that they cause
discomfort to passengers travelling, for example, in ambulances."
"4. ...gateways, chicanes, rumble devices, rumble areas,
build-outs, islands, pinch points and overrun areas. They
offer alternatives to the use of road humps and are used
in many situations where road humps are not suitable. These
can include roads used by emergency vehicles."
- One Fatality Every 50 Years
"Traffic Calming Evaluation Example" from
"Traffic Calming - Benefits, Costs and Equity Impacts",
Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, December 7, 1999
"Traffic Calming Evaluation Example -
This example illustrates the evaluation of a major traffic calming
program in an urban neighborhood with 5,000 residents living in
"Road Safey Benefits -
Historical data indicates that there are an average of 50 PDO crashes,
10 injury crashes, and 0.02 fatal crashes (i.e., one fatality every
50 years) on the roads to be traffic calmed."
[RADA: (1.) boldface added to original text for
emphasis, (2.) "PDO" = property damage only]
Negative Impact on Ambulance Service
- GREAT BRITAIN
Great Britain's Transport Minister says that
as of May 1998, there has been
of the medical effects of road humps
on patients being transported by ambulance.
"Show us the way to go home", The Evening News, York,
Phillip Chapman, June 26, 2000
"Geoff Farnworth, divisional officer in the control room
at North Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said: '... We have certain
standards to meet and we have to have vehicles at
the scene of a Category A emergency within eight
minutes. That's a life-or-death situation like a heart
'Before road humps came in we used to be able to
get from the station to Acomb within the required
time, but now it can take up to ten minutes.' "
- HUDDERSFIELD, Kirklees
Press Releases from Kirklees Council
- April 2, 1998 - "Work started ... to remove speed reduction cushions
... to provide a smooth route from the main
Wakefield Road to the Kirkwood Hospice."
- April 27, 1998 - "A few humps will be left ... until the replacement
road safety features ... can be provided."
- August 6, 1998 - "Work continues on the removal of speed cushions..."
- UNITED STATES
- COLORADO, Boulder
Pridemark Ambulance Service, letter, June 23, 2000
"Traffic mitigation devices that slow personal vehicles will also slow
ambulances and other emergency vehicles. This delays our arrival to the scenes
of medical emergencies and transports to the hospitals. Speed bumps and other
vertical devices cause discomfort to our patients and make it harder for us to
deliver patient care en route to a medical facility."
- FLORIDA, Pembroke Pines
Are speed bumps safer?,
MSNBC, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, April 25, 2000
"An ambulance going over a speed bump is not a fun place to
be. The driver who may be speeding to a scene or a hospital
has to suddenly slow down. When the ambulance hits the
speed bump, there is a big noise and paramedics go flying up
from their seats. If youíre on a stretcher with some sort of
injury, youíd really feel a jolt.
"More than one Fire Chief wants homeowner associations to
remove speed bumps. Pembroke Pines Fire Chief Vito
Splendorio says they damage his top-heavy trucks and can put
peopleís lives in danger.
"While talking to the Miami Herald, Splendorio said, 'Our
trucks have to crawl over them. If we are carrying someone
with a neck or spinal injury, you canít go more than 5mph over
them. Can you imagine doing an IV with a patient and hitting a
"According to fire officials, traffic-slowing devices can also
lengthen response times to fires or medical emergencies."
- First-hand account of being the back of an ambulance
travelling over humps. [RADA: No longer available online,
contact us for text.]
Negative Impact on Fire Department Response
- CARLINGTON, Ottawa
"Take Westgate Speed Hump Away", Carlington Summit -
Carlington Community Association, Frances Tanner, December 2000
"...the Fire Department has expressed strong concern about speed
humps on regional roads such as Merivale, which is close enough to the
Kirkwood fire station to be a major response route.
"CCA president Jim Maclean distributed copies of a regional
consultantís report assessing traffic measures, which found the Merivale hump
had reduced speed somewhat, although the Ottawa Pedestrian Advisory Group
thought it ineffective. Some drivers swerve towards the curb to avoid the hump,
making pedestrians and cyclists feel more unsafe."
- ONTARIO, Ottawa
"Traffic-calming policy under fire: Life and death at
stake, safety and emergency officials warn", The Ottawa Citizen,
Mohammed Adam, July 19, 1999
"On the heels of that fire, Ottawa Fire Chief Gary Richardson warned it
is only a matter of time before delays caused by traffic-calming devices
result in serious consequences. Other emergency service providers agree."
" 'We try and get to our patients as quickly as we can, and on
some ambulance calls -- where somebody is not breathing like a heart attack
or drowning -- every second counts,' said Bob Burnett, operations manager
for Ottawa-Carleton Regional Ambulance Service."
"For fire, ambulance and police vehicles travelling to an accident scene,
every second is important and a momentary delay because of speed humps and road
barriers can mean the difference between life and death, said Emile Therrien,
head of the Canada Safety Council."
"Though the fire on Cambridge Street is the latest catalyst for debate, the
complaints over traffic-calming are not limited to that small street. Both
Mr. Therrien and Fire Chief Richardson also oppose the series of speed humps
along Lyon Street leading up to the Queensway on-ramp."
- UNITED STATES
- ARIZONA, Mesa
- Speed Humps and the Mesa Fire Department, City of Mesa,
January 20, 2000
"... goal to respond to all emergencies within three minutes, 80% of
the time. ... At four minutes brain damage begins..."
"Each speed hump fire department vehicles must travel over increases
response time... "
Urgent Neighborhood Alert, Auburn Taxpayers and Parents
for Safe Streets and Rapid Police, Fire & Paramedic Response,
- "Rapid response time during an emergency is our biggest asset.
Speed bumps and grades are our biggest liabilities, and now
Mikkelsen Drive has both! As your fire chief, my greatest concern
is getting our equipment to your home as quickly as possible,
and the speed bumps on Mikkelsen Drive will delay us! From a
a safety standpoint, I would strongly recommend other means for
speed control that do not affect your Fire Departments' ability
to reach you when you urgently need us."
- Howard Leal, Fire Chief, City of Auburn
- "When I supervised police officers in Roseville, the speed
bumps were a real hardship during emergencies. Some police and fire
vehicles were damaged by them. Ultimately the City of Roseville had
to enact a moratorium on speed bumps seven years ago due to citizen
complaints and public safety concerns. Remember that when you have
an emergency, every second counts and speed bumps obstruct emergency
vehicles that are rushing to help you."
- F.C. "Rocky" Rockholm, Sgt., Roseville Police Department (Retired);
Former President, Roseville Police Officers Association
Memorandum, May 8, 1995 (reasons for BFD's opposition to further installation of speed humps)
- Coto de Caza - Channel 2, Los Angeles, CBS News, October 7, 1998
Firefighters Want Speed Bumps Bumped -
Authorities Say They Increase Emergency Response Time
"Fire officials complain that their 13-ton engines must slow to a crawl over
these humps, letting precious seconds tick by while potentially life-threatening
situations go untreated, the wire service said. Otherwise, firefighters who
speed over the mounds might otherwise damage delicate equipment such as
defibrillators, or snap a fire engine's suspension like a twig."
- Memorandum on Fire Department's Time Trials, Goals & Recommendations
"...emergency response time decreased 10 - 12 seconds per speed hump."
- Time Trial Results in table-format
and in text reader format
For a stunning example of the slowdown "downstream"
from the Roseville Time Trial Results, see
"Fire Station #4 to Rocky Ridge (17 speed bumps)" -
text reader format
- San Diego
Road Hump Evaluation Program, Executive
Summary, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., 1997
"Following the initial installation of road humps in the City of
San Diego in 1991, the following concerns have surfaced:
- Damage to emergency vehicles traversing road humps
- Reduction in emergency vehicle response times
- Proliferation of road humps to address diverted
traffic due to installations on neighboring streets
- "Deviations from installation criteria ("political"
- Santa Monica
"Council Approves Traffic Calming Recommendations",
Santa Monica Mirror, Carolanne Sudderth, February 16-22, 2000
"Fire Department Chief Ettore Berardinelli said that
so-called "traffic calming" devices virtually stopped his Department's
big trucks. 'You have to brake to a virtual stop, and roll over
the bumps,' he said. On average, it takes an extra 6 1/2 seconds per
axle to slow and roll over a traffic bump. The hook-and-ladder has
- Santee (San Diego area)
- "...we've never been unable to make our destination no matter how many
speed bumps are in the way. To tell you how much it slows us
down I can't really say".
- Jim Covington of the Santee Fire Department,
Traffic Advisory Committee meeting tapes, January 31, 2000,
(information provided by Lisa Carroll of Santee)
- "Santee fire chief dead wrong on speed humps",
Letter to the Editor, San Diego Union Tribune, May 25, 2000
"...there are eight speed humps before you reach the
residents at the end of this street."
- COLORADO, Boulder
"Why Has Service Declined?", The City of Boulder - Fire Master Plan
"Traffic mitigation also creates an adverse impact as fire
engines slow to maneuver around and over mitigation devices."
"Ballot Question 2A is a citizen-sponsored initiative to improve
emergency response in Boulder, Colorado. It was placed on the
November 2000 ballot through a successful, grassroots petition
drive under the banner SECONDS COUNT! The proposed ordinance prohibits
two kinds of traffic devices proven by city tests to delay fire trucks
- MAINE, Portland
Text of Chief Thomas's letter and
Captain Wassick's memo,
regarding the impact on emergency apparatus.
Montgomery County (time trial report)
/ Speed humps on route to fire
- NEVADA, Clark County
"Trying to Tame Town Traffic", Las Vegas Review-Journal,
Steve Friess, April 06, 1999
"County policy bars the use of obstructions on public roads, because
officials fear they will delay emergency response vehicles.
" 'They require that we slow down substantially,' said Clark County Deputy
Fire Chief Ralph King. 'You virtually come to a standstill. I hated it.'
"Romer said concern existed that motorists might sue the county for damage
to vehicles, that expensive fire equipment could be harmed and that such bumps
would inflict pain on drivers with spinal ailments. "
- NEW JERSEY, Princeton
"Islands are not calming to neighbors -
Traffic-calming devices upset Hodge Road area residents",
Princeton Packet, Jennifer Potash, May 13, 2000
"...members of the Princeton Fire Department and
the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad, are concerned that emergency
responses will be delayed by the islands and speed humps.
"During a time trial with one of the fire trucks Tuesday afternoon, the trip from
Bayard Lane through Hodge Road to Elm Road took 21 seconds longer than
the trip from Bayard Lane to Elm Road on Cleveland Lane, Mr. Peters said.
Cleveland Lane and Hodge Road are parallel.
"Ray Wadsworth, a member of the Princeton Fire Department, implored the
council to take out all of the traffic-calming devices not only because of the
response-time delays but because the trucks suffered some minor damage
clearing the speed humps.
"Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad Chief Greg Paulson expressed concern
that the delays his crew experienced on Hodge Road would add to the
response times to the Western Section of the borough and locations in
Princeton Township via Hodge Road. He also said the ambulances had
problems clearing the speed humps. "
- NEW MEXICO, Albuquerque
- Albuquerque Journal, "ABQjournal Road Warrior",
D'Val Westphal, February 15, 2000
'Lt. David J. Dryden of the Bernalillo County Fire Department says in his e-mail that
"speed humps do slow our responses very
much. These humps slow our vehicles to an absolute crawl, virtually having to come to a complete stop on some of them to avoid
damaging our expensive vehicles. ... it would truly help our service to the citizens if we can get the truth out." '
- TEXAS, Houston - Houston Chronicle, Rad Sallee, May 18, 2000
Speed humps issue divides subdivision"
"(Assistant Fire Chief Robert) Britt said the station's four shift chiefs agreed that the asphalt
mounds would damage emergency vehicles or slow them down. "
- News Articles - [RADA: * = No longer available
online, contact us for text.]
- Colorado Daily (If you cannot view this with Netscape, try Explorer.)
- Gazette / Gaithersburg, Maryland
July 4, 1998 / last update: September 12, 2000 (Version 1.l)