8 Ball In The Wind

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bizarre Differences In Governor's Highway Safety Association Fatality Reports

According to the 2017 preliminary report on pedestrian fatalities on American roadways; pedestrians now account for the largest proportion of traffic fatalities in the US.  In 2015, pedestrians had accounted for 15% of highway fatalities.  The preliminary estimates for 2016 indicate pedestrians may account for a full 16%.  This is an even higher percentage than motorcycle fatalities, which hover at 14% of total fatalities.

When you compare the Governor's Highway Safety Association reports for pedestrian and motorcyclists, there is a shocking difference in the basic mind-set of the reports.  For example on the 'Introduction' page of the pedestrian report it reads; "Walking is the oldest, most basic, and arguably the most beneficial form of human transportation.  Walking provides many important personal and societal benefits."  Now compare that glowing first few sentences on walking in the pedestrian fatality report, to the first few sentences of the motorcycle fatality report; "Motorcycles are less stable than four-wheeled vehicles and lack protective vehicle structure to minimize injuries when crashes occur. The result is substantially higher fatality rates for motorcyclists, whether based on registered vehicles or miles driven."  Sounds like motorcyclists are in quite substantial danger, doesn't it?  Yet the pedestrians account for a greater percentage of fatalities than motorcyclists do.  What is the explanation for that?

Part of it could lie in the governments not so hidden agenda.  The entire 'Introduction' page of the 2016 Motorcycle report is about the high risk of fatality.  While the newly released report on pedestrians in 2016 has an 'Introduction' page that talks about; reducing traffic congestion, the high cost of operating a car for a year, reducing greenhouse gases by walking, and the benefits of public transit to various demographic groups.  Not once on that page is there even a hint of anything dangerous, or fatal.  Not the slightest hint of anything but a glowing review of the benefits of walking.  Which seems rather strange considering approximately 1,500 more pedestrians were killed on US roadways than motorcyclists in 2016.

Then on page seven of the report is this slightly bizarre statement; "In addition to the role that increased walking may play in the increasing number of pedestrian fatalities as a proportion of total traffic deaths, another factor may be the larger and more consistent declines in occupant fatalities, attributed in part to steady enhancements in vehicle crashworthiness and crash avoidance technology. By contrast, pedestrians remain just as susceptible to sustaining serious or fatal injuries when struck by a motor vehicle."  Are they actually comparing car passengers to pedestrians in accidents?  As if there are possible "enhancements" for pedestrians?

But then when you look at page seven of the motorcycle report, there is this familiar statement; "In addition to the role that increased motorcycling activity might play in the growing percentage of motorcyclist fatalities as a proportion of total traffic deaths, another factor may be the larger and more consistent declines in occupant fatalities, attributed in part to steady enhancements in vehicle crashworthiness and crash avoidance technology. By contrast, motorcyclists remain just as susceptible
to injuries when involved in a crash."  It would seem to make one wonder, just how much critical thinking is going on while preparing these reports when the wording on the same pages is so similar.  Could these be simply "form reports" with just different diagrams and charts in place?

Whatever the reason for these seemingly 'cut & paste' reports, it is the differences that seem to be more bizarre.  Even though approximately 1,500 more people died walking than riding motorcycles, the two activities are treated in completely opposite tone and tenor of language. For those of you who don't have access to the GHSA reports, I'll leave you with samples of each report.  Each sample will be from page five of the relevant report.  But look at the difference between how walking in portrayed and how riding a motorcycle is portrayed.  You may notice that riding a motorcycle is made to seem extremely dangerous.  While walking is a wonderfully healthy, environmentally heroic, economically smart, and public transit linked activity.

First the portions from page five of the motorcycle fatality report; "Per mile driven, fatality rates for motorcyclists were 26 times that of passenger vehicle occupants in 2013 (NHTSA, 2015)." As well as; "Despite their limited presence, motorcycles currently account for nearly 15 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities."  Finally this last quote from the same page; "Fatalities began to rise in 1998 and increased by 151 percent (2,116 to 5,312) through 2008. Since then (2009 — 2014), the average annual number of motorcyclist fatalities has been 4,644. During the 1997 — 2014 time frame, motorcyclists’ share of total motor vehicle deaths rose from 5 percent to 14 percent."  Note the repetition of "fatalities"?  

Now compare that with the same page from the pedestrian fatality report, and from the same page.  Both page fives are the 'Introduction' pages of the reports.  But the pedestrian fatality report would seem to be getting "introduced" for something entirely different.  As you can see here: 

"Walking provides many important personal and societal benefits:

●● Health: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that “walking is a great way to get the physical activity needed to obtain health benefits.” Along with the important benefit of
social engagement, walking can reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

●● Transportation: The 2009 National Household Travel Survey found that 28 percent of trips are less than one mile in length, and 40 percent are less than two miles in length, representing 15-
30 minute walks. Moving from a vehicle to the sidewalk can help reduce congestion.

●● Economic: AAA estimated in 2016 that the cost of operating a car for one year is approximately $8,558, while walking is free.

●● Environmental: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, motor vehicles are responsible for more than one-half of nitrogen oxide and toxic air pollutant emissions, and
one-half of smog-forming volatile organic compounds. Walking, on the other hand, does not negatively impact the environment.

●● Transit: Walking is intrinsically linked with public transit, which provides a vital alternative to travel by private automobile. Many transit users do not drive cars, including children, older adults, people with disabilities, and the economically disadvantaged. Safe access to transit, including appropriate design and placement of bus stops, is important.  

The good news is walking is becoming an increasingly popular mode of transportation. A 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that nearly one million more people reported walking or biking to work in 2013 than in 2005."

Did you see "fatalities" even once?  Don't get me wrong, I am all for walking, but is it really appropriate to 'sugar coat' a report on pedestrian fatality with how wonderful walking is, while repeatedly emphasizing the risk of fatalities while riding a motorcycle?  Don't even get me started on how "walking is intrinsically linked with public transit."  That obviously was written by someone who has lived in an area served by public transit, and who has had at least a passing acquaintance with Neuro-Linguistic Programming.  So, what are you thoughts on the bizarre differences and similarities of these two reports, and how they affect the way we wish to travel?  Let me know what you think.  I am curious to hear and learn.

Catch you on the road sometime...

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