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”

Cleapor Fatality — Mesa police stonewall

The stonewall has broken, and a flood of details that implicate the cyclist as being at fault in the collision have been released in an AZ Republic article published October 13, 2007. Why it took until now, weeks after Mesa police declared there would be no citations issued is baffling. Mesa police spokesman Detective Chris Arvayo could have (and in my opinion, should have) either released these explanations sooner, or simply stated the investigation was ongoing. He either said, or left the impression that the case was closed without saying why. Continue reading “Cleapor Fatality — Mesa police stonewall”

Pecos Death Trap?

UPDATE SEP 22,2010: AFN reports that that there was an injury wreck at 32nd and Pecos resulting from a “bad left”. The 17 y.o. EB driver turned left into the path of the WB driver, who was injured “seriously but not life threatening”. Bad lefts were the cause of both a 2003 fatality and a 2007 very serious injuries; both of those were at 40th and Pecos. Continue reading “Pecos Death Trap?”

Driver arrested in quintuple(!) fatality — excessive speed and red-light-running alledged

A driver was arrested on suspicion of five counts of manslaughter (see homicide categories) and 3 aggravated assaults. What makes this unusual is the absence of suspicion of DUI. We shall see what the prosecutor does with it. This is a tantalizing comment: “data recorded when the truck’s airbags deployed substantiated detectives’ findings that Myers was driving at ‘an excessive speed,’ “. Data recorder? We (the public) often hear that these sorts of crashes are tragedies but not crimes — because the prosecutor claims that they can’t prove anything. Continue reading “Driver arrested in quintuple(!) fatality — excessive speed and red-light-running alledged”

The Disneyland Model

John Semmens is an AZDOT project manager who also writes free-market oriented policy papers — he is perhaps best known locally for his vociferous opposition to Phoenix’s light rail. John is now affiliated with the Independent Institute — a free-market-leaning think-tank that I had heretofore not heard of. He had an op-ed published last Saturday in the Wall Street Journal that contained some novel, perhaps radical, ideas about how private auto insurance should be used as a lever against dangerous drivers; he dubs this the “Disneyland model”, and makes some good points. Though, he does not even mention the role of law (criminal) enforcement (as in criminal charges: homicide, assault)… perhaps he was space-limited. Also, his general idea — privatizing licensure — seems sound but how would this help the problems caused by those who  simply go without? In any event it is a welcome look at publicizing one facet of the problems created by private automobile usage.

What is the deal with the 39,000 deaths figure? Fatalities have been running around 43,000.

The full text is here:  On the Road. September 1, 2007 op-ed, John Semmens, Wall Street Journal

Continue reading “The Disneyland Model”

11 people die in Valley traffic crashes over 5-day period

This is the sort of story that runs from time to time. Not front page news, by any stretch — it was buried in the B section. Motorists killing motorists. So much negligence, so little responsibility — maybe a few traffic tickets.

This is juxtaposed over the nationwide media din of the Minneapolis bridge collapse. Indeed, the front page today still is crammed with ever more stories of the aftermath. One of today’s lead stories was that the death toll, currently 5 confirmed and 8 still missing, seems miraculously low. Over 42,000 dead in traffic crashes last year — 0 of which were from bridge collapses.

Continue reading “11 people die in Valley traffic crashes over 5-day period”

2006 Fatality Stats – preliminary

here is the optional excerpt

[ U P D A T E : final stats ]

NHTSA’s preliminary Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data for 2006 (a.k.a. highway traffic fatalities):

  2006 2005
alcohol-related 17,941 17,525
drunk 13,990 13,613
pedestrian 4,768 4,881
motorcyclist not yet available 4,553
pedalcyclist not yet available 784
total 43,300 43,443
All other transportation(e.g planes, trains)   2,193

(Figures released May 25, 2007; updated table with 2005 numbers June 16, 2007)

Continue reading “2006 Fatality Stats – preliminary”