Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Traffic Deaths, Mapped

Here is a link to a pretty incredible site, a map of every single traffic related death in the US between 2001-2009. Nationwide:

Blob of purple. Says little. In fact, this would be more informative I think if it was then overlaid with a graphic emphasizing per capita deaths by city.

Nonetheless, awesome and terrifying. Like any natural disaster. Except this isn't natural, but entirely manmade. And no, I don't find it overkill to remind that Copenhagen has a goal to reduce traffic-related fatalities to zero for an entire year. It's good to have goals. In the last year, they had 5. It's better to have goals that can be met and measured. What are ours?

Let's look closer at downtown Dallas:

A few things jump out. First, the two dominant color-coded deaths: blue for pedestrian and purple for passenger/driver, make up about 90% of the deaths, split pretty evenly. Second, almost all are clustered around the highest speed roads, mostly the highways. Perfectly understandable, if not even predictable.

What I find most interesting is the amount of pedestrian deaths around the freeways. These are barriers, yet there is still motivation to try and cross them. We have to get where we're going and because of the way we've built our city, we have to take our life in not our hands but the hands of others that very likely aren't on the wheel, but texting with one and applying make-up (or shaving with an electric razor - to be non-gender specific) with the other while steering with the knee. I've done it. I also don't like that I have, hence the reason I got rid of my car. Other than the significant change in mood before/after driving.

Backing up a bit, the pattern is still evident as the graphic is organized entirely around the highest speed traffic. Again, predictable, but still there are pedestrians. I'd hypothesize that the number of pedestrian-vehicle conflicts are significantly lower on the roads where the most deaths occur. In other words, where the most pedestrians AREN'T.

The natural assumption is likely, "well, I need to get where I'm going. Dumbasses shouldn't walk on busy roads." Do you think the citizens of Vancouver can't get to where they're going? They have no freeways within the city limits. Did LA shutdown during carmageddon? No to both. Both commuters and the real estate market adapt to the transportation system built. It IS the driver that the rest of the city, its patterns and behaviors, adapts to.

If government's entire role is public safety (and secondarily efficiency/fairness of the market as well as a sustainable city), might we consider building/retrofitting a more humane transportation framework?