Category Archives: safety

Miles driven off sharply in 2008

First high gas prices, then the economic slowdown has meant a sharp decrease in miles driven in Arizona. “Arizona drivers put 295 million fewer miles on their cars in October compared with October last year, a 6 percent decline and the 11th consecutive month traffic has dropped”

It will be interesting to see what impact this has on crash rates for 2008. Arizona posted a huge drop in fatalities for 2007, the per-mile stats still have not been posted for 2007; though Arizona is perennially high compared to US as a whole. Continue reading Miles driven off sharply in 2008

Is walking risky?

Risk by mode share; walking is commonly considered “risky” but what does that mean? After all, all forms of transportation have some risk. When compared on a per-trip basis — as opposed to, say, a per-mile rate — we find that pedestrian fatalities are only slightly over-represented, both for Arizona and for US averages. For example, the Arizona estimated mode-share for all trips is 9.3%, whereas pedestrian fatalities were 12% of all traffic fatalities for the period 2003 to 2006.

Some authors have argued that walking (and cycling. See, e.g. Pucher) is wildly risky.

Reference:
ADOT’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan Study, Working Paper 1, Exhibit 2-3.

Mionske: Can’t we do better?

In Bob Mionske’s Nov 20th column, Can’t we do better?, he asks “What do you think can be done about cyclist safety?”…

2007 Fatals by type

This may sound trite but, to improve cyclist’s safety I think the best thing to do is focus on improving traffic safety.  I know it’s easy to read yet another apparent case of a negligent motorist hurting/killing a cyclist, getting off scot free and then feeling that “the system” is stacked against cyclists. But this loses sight of the fact that the problem isn’t limited to cyclists as victims, all categories of motorist’s victims, including other motorists, are treated just as shabbily. Cyclists’ fatalities represent less than 2% of the 41,059 traffic deaths (NHTSA 2007 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment – Highlights)

There are other, far larger, constituencies who are also subject to these same injustices; pedestrians, motorcycle operators, and the largest of all; passengers and innocent drivers. These groups — which includes just about everybody — are all victims of negligent drivers.

So the key, in my view, to tightening up laws which would actually punish negligent drivers is to broaden to appeal beyond the tiny community of active bicyclists to involve as many of these other groups as possible.

So without this becoming a laundry list — consider for example victim Lance Adams who was killed in Mesa, AZ April 2005 WHILE WALKING ON THE SIDEWALK… no criminal charges(prosecutor says “no likelihood of conviction”), no citations. Matthew Hayes Peterson said he blacked out, causing his vehicle to jump the curb. The young man who killed Lance had a previous speeding violation, and somewhat incredulously was ticketed for speeding again on Dec 14 (90mph! in a 65. As of story Feb 1, the outcome of that ticket was still pending).Prosecutors won’t seek criminal charges against a 21-year-old driver who ran over a Mountain View High School student last year, saying there isn’t enough evidence to prove he was impaired.


DRIVER WON’T BE CHARGED IN STUDENT DEATH

Jim Walsh. Arizona Republic.  Jan 31, 2006.

Lance Adams, 15, was walking home from school on a sidewalk April 11 when he was struck and killed by an SUV driven by Matthew Hayes Peterson.

Mesa police sought manslaughter charges in late December after obtaining long-delayed test results from the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s crime lab on drugs found in Peterson’s system.

But Krystal Garza, a spokeswoman for Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, said in a statement that the case was sent back recently to Mesa police.

“Based on the information submitted to date, we don’t believe there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” Garza wrote. “One factor in this decision was there were no signs of impairment that could be tied to any substance, legal or illegal, in the suspect’s system.”

Peterson told police after the collision that he blacked out before his 2000 Toyota RAV4 jumped a curb in the 1400 block of North Lindsay Road and struck Adams.

The lab tests measured the amount of marijuana metabolite found in Peterson’s system, along with two prescription drugs identified by police as propoxyphene, a narcotic pain reliever and zolpidem, a sleeping medication.

[oddly, they listed the chemical names. The two prescription drugs found in Peterson’s system are commonly known by their brand names; Darvon, and Ambien. One wonders if Peterson had a prescription? What about the warnings, did Peterson heed them?]

Heed the warnings?

Ambien/zolpidem Warnings : “Patients should be cautioned against engaging in hazardous occupations requiring complete mental alertness or motor coordination such as operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle after ingesting the drug, including potential impairment of the performance of such activities that may occur the day following ingestion of Ambien”

Darvon/Propoxyphene Warnings: … may impair the mental and/or physical abilities required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks, such as driving a car…”

Yet another cycling is dangerous story

With gas prices the way they are, stories about cycling in mainstream press abound. As I have pointed out before (see Media Bias) these stories for mass consumption generally paint a one-sided cycling-is-dangerous story. Despite my high hopes for the journalistic balance of the Wall Street Journal (news that is. I don’t expect balance in the editorial content), Rhonda Rundle’s story from August 1, 2008 fell into the same familiar pattern. The title, Risking Life and Limb, Riding a Bike to Work in L.A., should have been a give away Continue reading Yet another cycling is dangerous story

Arizona 2007 Traffic Fatalities Plummet

I just heard Michael Hegarty, spokesman for AZ GOHS and/or AZ GTSAC, on the radio reporting that 2007 traffic fatalities fell to 1066 — a 17% decrease from 2006.
This would be an enormous decrease. He seemed pretty nonchalant about it. A drop of this magnitude is unprecedented.

Bicyclist’s fatalities fell the most, 27%, which is good news of course. But I must caution that since there are very few this number fluctuates greatly from year-to-year. The number of bicyclist fatalities has varied from as low as 15 to as high as 36 over the past couple of decades, with no perceptible trend.

Anyway, overall this would be consistent with a large reported drop on state highways (as opposed to all roads). This data was announced back in January and comes out much sooner than the whole-state rollup.

Press accounts published June 6th papers were likewise muted: Arizona Republic and KOLD ran the AP account, East Valley Tribune, which carried this breakdown, sourced to the GTSAC, though I can’t find anything on their website:

TYPE 2006 2007 Change
Pedestrians 167 157 -6%
Motorcyclists 142 135 -5%
Bicyclists 29 21 -28%
Others 18
TOTALS 1288 1066 -17%

Associated Press – June 5, 2008 6:04 PM ET

PHOENIX (AP) – State officials say traffic accidents are claiming fewer lives in Arizona.

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Council says 1,066 people were killed in traffic-related accidents in 2007. That’s down 17% from the 1,288 deaths in 2006.

The council also says the 2007 figure is the lowest since 2001 and that the state’s population has grown by more than 1 million since then.

The council credits driver education and law enforcement efforts for the reduction.