Category Archives: safety

More Shocking Arizona Fatality Stats

All of the 2006 state-by-state figures are now available, as I predicted — see Arizona leads the nation — fatality rates in Arizona which were already high, have climbed again. Both the per capita traffic fatality rate and per mile rate are now 46% higher than the US as a whole. The per capita rate is over 3 times worse than the “best state”.

And for bicyclists, there is hopeful news, the 2006 number of Arizona cyclist fatalities at 29 (out of 1288 total) seems to be in line with historical trends. The 2005 number was atypically high at 35. Continue reading More Shocking Arizona Fatality Stats

Media Bias

Stories in the media tend to exaggerate the dangerousness of cycling. There is also a general undertone that motorists who hurt/kill cyclists tend to “get away with it”. Both these concepts have a certain element of truth, of course, but ignore the context of traffic generally. Traffic fatalities are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States — regardless of cyclist fatalities. By far the largest number of fatalities are motor-vehicle drivers and occupants. There is far more motor-vehicle traffic so this is to be expected. With regard to “getting away with it”: most negligent motorists (excepting DUI) get away with it, without regard to what it is they killed; be it a another driver, another occupant, motorcyclist, pedestrian or cyclist. Continue reading Media Bias

The Risk of (Bus) Riding

I suppose I should have expected this story, after the tragedy at Mexican Hat, Utah last week. A bus returning to Phoenix, Arizona from a ski trip crashed, killing nine and injuring dozens.

Anyone glancing at page 1 of today’s Arizona Republic would have to be forgiven if they got the impression that travel by bus was incredibly dangerous. The headline blares: “THE RISK OF RIDING” (I”m not shouting, it was in all caps!); the graphic with large font colored type: “146 fatalities” (in very small print above, “1996-2005”. That’s 10 years!)

The story by Robert Anglen was entitled “Bus-safety shortcomings have drawn attention but little action“, but that was published in subtitle-sized type, subordinate to THE RISK OF RIDING.

Inside, there were four enormous pictures “In the first six days of 2008, four buses crashed in the U.S.”. Of course, in those same six days there were thousands of (other) grisly crashes, and hundreds of (other) traffic fatalities but none of them were pictured, or even mentioned — it’s all about the buses, and their obvious huge risks.

So, does traveling in a bus have risk? Of course. The story did make some attempt to compare the risks to general traffic, e.g. “There are 20 to 25 motor-coach deaths per year compared with 41,000 auto deaths”. Thats a good start. But then “The American Bus Association, a trade organization representing 1,000 motor-coach companies, estimates that there are 0.05 bus fatalities for every 100 million passenger miles traveled” was left hanging. To put this last number into context, the official overall US fatality rate is 1.46 per 100 million VMT (Vehicle miles traveled. NHTSA data here, and also note that Arizona rates are significantly worse). Since the number of occupants per vehicle overall hovers not much above 1, that makes traveling by bus about 30 TIMES SAFER than riding around in a car. (It probably implies that the motor-coach fatality rate is similar when compared on a per VMT basis, since they would tend to have large passenger loads)

In short, the story follows the perennial bias of ignoring or downplaying general traffic problems (largely automobile). While causing needless anxiety and leading to worsen the very problem resulting in more fatalities — “why doesn’t my child’s bus have seat belts? I better drive them myself instead”