Data Collection of Bicyclist Helmet Use in Crashes

I have some questions/concerns/misgivings about helmet usage as it relates to bicyclist safety and crash reports. It seems to me that it is not well-reported… (update; sometime in the late 2010s this was updated; skip below to the 11th edition…

Arizona Crash Report (10th Edition)

Curiously, given the hoopla intense interest surrounding bicyclist helmet usage, there is NO place on the ACR to report whether or not a bicyclist was using a helmet. There is a block for each traffic unit(4dd) and passenger(5c), SafetyDevice  lists things like helmet/airbag/seatbelt and so forth. However, this block is always supposed to be coded 0/Not Applicable, and is explicitly never to be 1/None Used, or 5/Helmet Used for pedalcyclists. See p.23, 26 of 2010 Arizona’s Crash Report Forms Instruction Manual. (this was block 4ff)

Clearly this is often coded not according to the manual, see below for some live data e.g. from 2010. We might guess that the 10% or so that say Helmet Used probably does mean those bicyclists had helmets, and likewise probably the 35% that said None Used probably means not helmet. But the other 55% is (from the data) anybody’s’ guess.

There is likewise no place on the ACR to code for nighttime crashes whether or not a bicyclist was using required lighting equipment (a front headlight or a rear taillight/reflector).

Arizona Crash Report (11th, 12th Edition)

the helmet business was changed and made explicit. Some of these changes were in the 11th edition (I have only a draft), below is what is in the 12th Edition which is referred to as 2022; revised Jan 31,2021: here are the salient bits, with my emphasis added:

5ff ‐ Safety Devices - The restraint equipment in use by the occupant, 
or the helmet use by a motorcyclist, at the time of the crash.
0. Not Applicable - Use for driverless/parked vehicles or pedestrians. Do not use this code for motorcycle operators or pedalcyclists.
1. None Used - Any occupant of the motor vehicle (driver, passenger) did not use a device or in the case of a motorcycle or pedalcyclist, did not use a helmet.
5. Helmet Used - This attribute applies to helmets used by drivers and passengers of all motorized cycles (motorcycles, mopeds, minibikes, motor scooters, and all-terrain vehicles) This should also be used for non-motorists such as pedalcyclists or a pedestrian

So that’s that. This field shows up in the database in the person table as SafetyDevice. Although there are still hundreds of “NOT APPLICABLE” for pedalcyclists despite being explicitly wrong, per the manual. There are also a couple dozen apparent oddballs like seat belts, a few unknowns, a couple dozen not reported (value of 255)

SELECT SafetyDevice, eSafetyDevice, count(*) FROM 2021_person
WHERE ePersonType LIKE 'PEDAL%' GROUP BY 1, 2 ORDER BY SafetyDevice;

I didn’t check into the other issue regarding lighting, there’s some other fields, but only in the fatal suppleement regarding non-occupant safety devices: things like reflective clothing, lights; in any event that doesn’t get captured into the (state) database, though it presumably gets passed along into FARS.


For 1994 through 2009; all persons including bicyclists and other pedalcyclists used the P10 Restraint/Helmet Use field. The column was called REST_USE in the person table.

From 2010 and later, this info was moved to a whole new dataset, the SafetyEq table. the column name is MSAFEQMT; and it’s slightly annoying because it’s indexed by ST_CASE (i.e. the case number), and person number. There can be any number of records for any given person.

The field is called NM13 Non-Motorist Safety Equipment “This element indicates the safety equipment that was used by the non-motorist
involved in the crash”, in the FAR Manual. In the FAR Validation Manual, there’s an elaborate confusing explanation of differentiating between Not Reported and Unknown. Allowable values are:

  1. None
  2. Helmet
  3. Reflective Clothing (jacket, backpack, etc.)
  4. Protective Pads Used (elbows, knees, shins, etc.)
  5. Lighting
  6. (not used)
  7. Other Safety Equipment
  8. Not Reported
  9. Unknown if Used


For reference, you can see‘s field P23 Non-Motorist Safety Equipment from (MMUCC is a nhtsa-funded group that sets standards for data collection on traffic crash reports). This is consistent with FARS definition; except that mmucc says only two may be selected for any person, and FARS allows any number to be selected (theoretically, the vast majority have either one or two selected).


AAA: Cost of car ownership increases to $9,100 this year

The AAA puts out a report on the costs of operating a car each year, and are always fun… figure a ballpark of 60 cents a mile. It’s been my experience that car owners are in consistent denial, other than chronic moaning about the price of fuel, about the high costs of automobility. (and fuel ends up being only about 1/4th of the overall cost). And these costs only represent direct costs; socialized costs (pollution, policing, mayhem, free and subsidized parking, various non-fuel taxes, etc) are not even attempted to be measured here.

“A new AAA reports shows, on average, the cost of driving 15,000 miles a year rose 1.17 cents to 60.8 cents per mile, or $9,122 per year. Overall, that’s a roughly 2% increase on the cost of operating a car last year.”  usatoday

Photo enforcement is all about making money?

“Police Chief Michael Frazier said the program brought in about $150,900 for the city since it began in May 2010. However, it cost the city $340,700 to run the program over that same period — a $189,800 deficit” Surprise won’t renew contract with photo-enforcement company

When photo-enforcement makes money; detractors say that that proves that “it’s only about the money”. When it costs money and the program gets canceled we are told by the detractors that this just double proves that it’s only about money.


Arrest made in dragging murder

[Marquez was sentenced in December 2012 after being convicted of first degree murder]

An unexpected benefit of photo-enforcement? Or maybe it should be obvious that bad guys have a tendency to be bad drivers?

Police reported Wednesday that they have solved two savage and infamous Valley crimes: one a 21-year-old Arizona State University student dragged to death in May…

Sifting through 500 leads, using photo enforcement, advanced computers and the U.S. Marshals Service, Tempe police Tuesday booked Joseluis Marquez, 20, on first-degree murder in the death of Kyleigh Sousa, 21.

A photo-enforcement picture of Marquez driving a golden 2008 Dodge Charger, snapped May 8 in Tempe, was key to the arrest, said Tempe Police Cmdr. Kim Hale. The car, a rental, was traced to the Los Angeles area.

Finding the car, detectives worked backward to identify the driver, who traveled between California and Arizona, police said.

It was 18 days after the photo was snapped that Sousa was fatally dragged outside an International House of Pancakes at 225 E. Apache Blvd. Marquez, driving the Dodge, snatched her purse and drove off, police say. Sousa, her hands entangled in the purse straps, was dragged 30 feet before falling to the asphalt parking lot, suffering a skull fracture and detached artery.


I don’t quite follow the timeline, or the exact role the picture played.

Violation of a statute enacted for the public safety is negligence per se

Sisk v. Ball, 91 Ariz. 239, 371 P.2d 594 (1962):

“Violation of a statute enacted for the public safety is negligence per se,Anderson v. Morgan, 73 Ariz. 344, 241 P.2d 786 (1952), and when this theory is supported by the evidence, [a party] is entitled to have a properly worded instruction on this issue read to the jury. Of course, a violation of the statutory duty must be also a proximate cause of the injury to constitute actionable negligence. Caldwell v. Tremper, 90 Ariz. 241, 367 P.2d 266 (1961).” 91 Ariz. at 242, 371 P.2d at 595-96.

 Here are a couple of definitions of negligence per se:
This 2013 CA appeals court ruling involving a wrong-way sidewalk rider has a lot of references to “negligence per se”  Spriesterbach v. Holland

Driver who killed Tucson bicyclist given 33 years

Historical incident. Backdated.

9/4/2011  ~ 900am. victim: Albert Eugene Brack was killed riding his bicycle east on Escalante Road near the intersection of S Calexico Avenue, Tucson.

Some other info on Continue reading “Driver who killed Tucson bicyclist given 33 years”

Phoenix city parks to charge $5 fee for parking

More on driver’s attitudes towards parking:

“I’m kind of flabbergasted,” … “It seems like we’re getting taxed right and left. They shouldn’t be charging for this. It’s going to be a financial burden for some people.”

And what is “this”? Why, (formerly) free parking of course. Parking must be “free” and plentiful. And I’m sure it could be a burden for some, but let’s keep things in perspective; Phoenix recently instituted a 2% grocery tax.

The plan would charge $5 a day, yearly passes would be available for $75. [arizona republic]

Burning 10,000 barrels a day

In order to mitigate marine damage, some of the oil that is leaking from the blown-out BP / Deepwater Horizon well, around 10,000 barrels a day is being burned into the open air in a completely uncontrolled combustion. [story from AP: BP starts burning oil from leaking ruptured well, June 16, 2010]

BP or whoever can theoretically run around an pick up every tar ball and clean off every pelican, but who is going to clean the air? As is usually the case, nobody does.  So everyone gets dirtier air. It’s just blowin’ in the wind. Just another externality of oil and gas consumption.

Ezra Klein had a good piece on externalities in last week’s Washington Post:

Think gas is to pricey? Think again Continue reading “Burning 10,000 barrels a day”

Arizona to end highway photo-enforcement

Governor Jan Brewer’s appointee for DPS director, Robert Halliday, does not like the cameras. No word on what he thinks of the  evidence that they reduce crashes and injuries. (see e.g. DPS press release, and ADOT study of loop 101 )

Also no word yet from the many legislators who have vowed to increase DPS patrols on highways, claiming that will enhance safety. Arizona faces record budget shortfalls, and it isn’t clear where money for increasing patrols would come from. The budge shortfall just got a little bigger, now that the Redflex contract has be canceled (well, not renewed) — because as the critics like to point out; the program made money for the state.

Unaffected are city-run programs, which are used for both speed and red-light running enforcement on surface streets (not on limited-access highways).

Arizona to eliminate speed-enforcement cameras on freeways, The Arizona Republic, 5/06/2010

“Idaho Stop” bill re-introduced

Stop-as-yield has been reintroduced.

49th Leg, 2nd Regular Session; HB2633 ( text of HB2633). Its been assigned to the House TI (Transportation and Infrastructure) committee. It’s hard for me to imagine Chairman Biggs letting this bill go anywhere.

You can review articles and background materials from the last session here.

Ahwatukee gets a new road

[UPDATE; this is the original material, circa 2009] Since Ahwatukee, part of the city of Phoenix, has been built-out now for years, I don’t get to say this much. Ahwatukee is getting a new road. It connects 40th and Pecos to the Wild Horse Pass (new) Hotel-Casino / Resort  / Rawhide on the Gila River Indian Reservation. The road opened to traffic to coincide with the grand opening of the new hotel/casino, Oct 30, 2009.

Views of Estrella Mountains to the west
Views of Estrella Mountains westbound on Willis Rd

For cyclists going “around the mountain”, this means it will no longer be necessary to cross over I-10 to get to Maricopa Road, usually via S 56th Street, and then cross back over to pick up Maricopa Road. Here is a map of the general vicinity (the new road is not shown yet). Continue reading “Ahwatukee gets a new road”

Training the Brain To Choose Wisely

This piece appeared on page one of the Personal Journal section. It dealt mainly with alternative incentives for behavior modification in the workplace; e.g. paying employees to lose weight or quit smoking. Here are some excerpts with my emphasis added:

The human brain is wired with biases that often keep people from acting in their best interest. Now, some employers and insurers are testing ways to harness such psychological pitfalls to get people to make healthier choices…

Rather than encouraging good behavior with small or one-time payments, some health and wellness plans have begun enrolling employees in lotteries for a chance to win a bigger reward….

Such approaches stem from the field of behavioral economics, which challenges the conventional economic doctrine that consumers always act as informed, rational decision makers. Instead, behavioral researchers have found, people often exhibit irrational, albeit predictable, biases that lead them not to act in their best interests.

…Though the study is still under way, about 70% of the lottery group has completed the assessment, researchers say. That compares with 34% of those receiving the basic cash reward, and 43% of those getting an additional grocery card.

It seems to me the lottery incentive could be used by businesses as an incentive for bicycle commuting (to comply with trip-reduction efforts).

Deal to increase sales tax to build roads

There is an initiative floating around from some group called the “TIME Coalition”.

A shady backroom deal cooked up between Napolitano and the Arizona Home Builders is almost too much to bear. It seems the home builders have engineered a way to escape any extra taxation (impact fees) by helping out the governor with another of here proposals. More here: including an image of the leaked agreement

As a tactic to derail TIME’s proposition (should it make it to the ballot), no-new-taxes lawmakers are preparing their own legislative initiative. This would set up a situation where potentially there could be two similar but competing ballot propositions both dealing with “transportation”. Rep. Russell Pearce’s legislation would put a ballot proposition that would levy a 1/2 percent addition general state sales tax whose revenues would be used for building roads. This is meant to stick it in the eye of TIME’s proposition which spends some of its revenue on public transportation — but not very much, 78% is on roads and freeways and only around 20% is on public transit. Rival Transportation Plan Posed, Arizona Republic, May 30, 2008.