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August 27, 2014

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Numerate

David makes an excellent point about system design vs. human error.

But, I'd like to note that the report is deeply misleading. Once again, a bad number is worse than no number at all.

Boston is actually safer than average for drivers. According to the CDC, Boston saw 5 deaths per 100,000 drivers, which less than the national average (11) and the big city average (8). Most of the most dangerous cities (15+) are in Florida.

Likewise, Boston is safer than average for pedestrians. According to the DOT, Boston saw 0.79 deaths per 100,000 residents. In contrast, the rate was 2.84 in Denver and 3.99 in Detroit.

Boston does have a lot of fender-benders, which is not surprising given the inscrutable road network, potholes, lack of signs. But, it's just not accurate to describe Boston drivers as worse, given how much safer the roads are than elsewhere in the U.S.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6128a2.htm

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811888.pdf

Barry

David, that is a very good point. Cities like Boston will also have a huge legacy problem with their roads. So many were designed before cars, or wedged in between those spaces.

David B

I haven't lived in Boston for over 20 years, but if people drive now the way they did then, Boston has the worst drivers I've experienced in the U.S.

Douglas Levene

I grew up in Boston, have lived in many different places in the US, and now live in Shenzhen, China, and can say that Boston drivers are awful, certainly the worst in the US, and, in many ways (in particular, the flagrant disregard of traffic laws) are as bad as drivers in China (most of whom got behind a wheel for the first time last week).

Ann Marie Marciarille

I, too, think about what a community's or culture's organization of traffic can teach us about the allocation of risk and responsibility for human error. If you aren't familiar with Tom Vanderbilt's marvelous book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do , I commend it to you when discussing these topics in health law.

Michael Lewyn

This whole discussion is based on rubbish, because it is based on Allstate's study which focuses on "accidents" without drawing any distinction between minor collisions and major, death-inducing accidents.

In fact, Boston is one of the safest cities to drive in in the U.S., because all those pre-car roads lead to slower traffic, thus making collisions less dangerous. By contrast, newer cities have much higher fatality rates. Boston had only 2 car deaths per 100,000 people in 2011 (the last year I found data for)- one-seventh the rate of Kansas City where I live now. Here's some more data

http://www.planetizen.com/node/69541

http://www.planetizen.com/node/70307

(see bottom of both posts)

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