December 20, 2010

IT'S EASY ENOUGH TO CUT FATALITIES EVEN FURTHER...:

New Puzzle: Why Fewer are Killed in Car Crashes (JOSEPH B. WHITE, 12/15/10, WSJ)

The federal highway fatality data analyzed by University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle suggest that talking and texting behind the wheel are a smaller problem than, for instance, motorcycle deaths.

Messrs. Sivak and Schoettle found that in 2005, 2,369 fatal accidents were blamed on "inattentive" driving–including eating, talking or using a phone. By 2008, inattentive driving was blamed for 3,366 deadly crashes.

By comparison, the number of fatalities involving motorcycles grew by 14% to 5,129 deaths in 2008 from 4,492 in 2005. The researchers noted this trend is consistent with rising motorcycle ownership among "middle-aged men with little or no prior experience." [...]

Mr. Sivak says that when he looks at the causes of crashes, he zeroes in on alcohol. "That is the biggie," he says.

Alcohol and speed, he says, explain why so many people die on the highway alone, without hitting another car. Out of 34,017 total accidents in 2008 ascribed in federal data to a collision, about 62%—just over 21,000—involved a single-vehicle crash. Such deadly wrecks declined by 9% between 2005 and 2008, less than the 13% decline in deadly collisions overall.

So what's helping to reduce deaths? Technology deserves some credit, according to the data. Deaths in side-impact crashes declined between 2005 and 2008 at a faster rate than the decline for deaths overall. That suggests that side airbags are helping more people survive crashes, the researchers found.

The Michigan study found a nearly 20% decline in deaths among young drivers, age 16 to 25. Among the possible reasons: the increasing number of states that use graduated licensing programs that delay granting full driving privileges until teens have more experience, and rising teen joblessness. [...]

The number of deadly accidents in which there was no evidence that the driver swerved to avoid the crash, an indicator of excess speed, dropped by more than 20% between 2005 and 2008, according to federal data. (The number of such crashes is still quite high—nearly 23,000 in all for 2008.)

"The slower the speed, the more likely an avoidance maneuver is possible," the researchers wrote.


...just limit licenses to ages 25-65, ban motorcycles, and require passive breathalyzer technology.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 20, 2010 6:09 AM
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