I live on a side street off a busy boulevard in Los Angeles. The posted speed limit on the boulevard is 35 miles per hour, but most of the traffic routinely exceeds that, usually traveling between 40 and 50 miles per hour. It's hard enough to pull out onto the boulevard in the best of times (especially when I have to turn left), but when the traffic is speeding, as it usually is, the gaps in time between the cars are considerably narrowed. That means I am taking an unnecessary risk practically every time I need to leave my house by car.
I don't claim to be a perfect driver, and I've exceeded the speed limit myself on occasion and been guilty of other acts of dangerous driving. Nevertheless, whenever I am blocked for long minutes from exiting my own street, or have to take a chance to pull out into the infrequent gaps between the speeding cars on the boulevard, unsure of just how much in excess of the limit they might be traveling, I get annoyed at other drivers recklessly zooming through my neighborhood. They are endangering my life, as well as their own. Worse, they endanger my kids' lives. Watching my own kids learn to navigate this same busy intersection has made me even more sensitive to the dangers posed by excessive speed on city streets. We could save a lot of lives, not to mention a lot of fuel, by drawing more attention to the problem of speeding.
When I read the news this weekend about the tragic death of Paul Walker, who was apparently a passenger in a souped-up Porsche that crashed into a pole in the town of Valencia north of Los Angeles, what amazed me was that hardly anybody commenting on this news was talking much about speeding. Aside from a few passing mentions that the police were looking into the possibility that speed was a factor in this single car collision, most of the commentary I was reading acted as if Walker had been struck by lightning or taken from us in some other wholly unexpected way, instead of as a direct consequence of dangerous and illegal activities in which he frequently participated and which his movies have glorified. It now appears from early investigative reports that the car in which Walker was a passenger may been been traveling in excess of 100 miles an hour, on city streets, in a 45 MPH zone. Even the best race car driver cannot guarantee that at that speed, he would be able to avoid an unexpected pedestrian, or animal, or some other distraction. In this case, the driver was apparently unable to avoid a stationary light pole.
Like everyone else, I'm saddened by the senseless death long before his time of a talented performer, and especially by the loss suffered by his teenage daughter. But let's at least acknowledge the part that speed probably played in the tragedy. Speeding is not a fact of life we have to take for granted. It's a problem we could do something about.
I read that some of Walker's fans are burning rubber next to the spot where he met his end. If they really want to honor his memory, maybe they should just slow down instead.