Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx challenged the nation’s mayors to reduce pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and injuries on his Fast Lane blog and detail. The challenge has been repeated many places, including Streetsblog USA. Though I’m happy that the secretary is bringing attention to the issue of rising pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities (while motor vehicle […]
In the last there days, Monday through Wednesday, at least four people died when struck by car drivers, and two others were injured. I know that the Sacramento Bee does not report all pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and injuries, so there may have been more in the region, but this is an incredible level of slaughter.
The SacBee articles so far are:
- Midtown Sacramento cyclist seriously injured in collision with city garbage truck (SacBee 2013-10-23)
- Sacramento cyclist killed after swerving in front of SUV (SacBee 2013-10-22); Cyclist killed in Monday accident in south Sacramento identified (SacBee 2013-10-22)
- 3 dead, 1 injured in separate pedestrian accidents in Sacramento area (SacBee 2013-10-22)
- Girl struck by car while walking to school in south Sacramento (SacBee 2013-10-22)
- Man killed in auto-pedestrian accident in north Sacramento (SacBee 2013-10-22);Man killed in auto-pedestrian accident in north Sacramento identified (SacBee 2013-10-23)
- Elderly Sacramento woman killed in auto-pedestrian accident (SacBee 2013-10-22)
- Woman killed in hit and run accident in Elk Grove (SacBee 2013-10-22); Woman killed in Elk Grove hit and run accident identified (SacBee 2013-10-23)
The better of these articles describe the outcome and location in a factual manner. The poorer ones place the blame on the victim. This victim blaming is aided and abetted by the law enforcement officers who make the assumption that either a) it was a “tragic accident” that could not have been prevented or b) the driver was not drunk and remained at the scene, so clearly it is the pedestrian or bicyclist’s fault. Both are nonsensical statements and ideas.
California Walks tweeted an LA Times articles entitled Highway deaths at lowest level since 1949; bike, truck fatalities rise. The misinformation and misunderstanding in the article includes:
The article misses that the Traffic Safety Fact: 2011 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview (TSF), linked from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) press release, also shows that the injury rate per vehicle mile traveled (VMT) has been flat for three years. What does this mean? It probably means that the number of crashes has not declined, just the likelihood of fatality in a crash. The rate per VMT is the only useful measure of traffic safety. Fatality counts and injury counts are a mis-measure because they are affected by the rate of driving and a number of other factors, rather than the safety of driving.
The TSF provides counts of pedestrian fatalities, up 3%, and bicyclists (the NHTSA uses the obscure term pedalcyclists), up 8.7%. To go with the counting game, this is an increase of 130 dead pedestrians and 54 dead bicyclists in just one year. No statistics are presented on the fatality rate per bicycle mile traveled. Why? I believe that it is because NHTSA is too lazy or too disinterested to compile information on bicycle miles traveled. Though pedestrian miles traveled would be difficult to compile, at least a rate could be developed per pedestrian trip, which would be a more accurate measure of the rate of fatalities. Again, the NHTSA can’t be bothered. I am certainly not the first to point out that pedestrian and bicyclist fatality counts are a mis-measure of safety, yet the federal, state, and local governments continue to ignore the issue.