Monday, January 8, 2018

What is Killing Oregonians? Driving! - Also, Morningside NA

There's a front-page article today tabulating the top causes of death for Oregonians in 2016.

Number three on the list, "unintentional injury," includes "motor vehicle crashes" as one of the "most common factors contributing to unintentional injury" death.

While noting a large increase in traffic violence, it says "Oregon ranks among the states with the best transportation safety laws" and also quotes the State Epidemiologist and State Health Officer, who says “Driving under the influence of drugs or even distracted driving by texting while driving are both big problems that contribute to these deaths.”

But of course the bigger, unacknowledged problem is that we are driving more. The count of deaths tracks closely with vehicle miles traveled.

The more we drive, the more we die
(from the paper a year ago; red comments added)
Driving itself is a proper topic for public health! It's not just that we should drive better and more carefully. Humans can't even walk on a sidewalk without tripping from time to time. If we are intrinsically incapable of 100% safe walking, what makes us think we can operate at lethal speeds a motor vehicle weighing tons?

Over at the Vitoria Transport Policy Institute, Todd Litman proposes a new traffic safety paradigm.

He says:
Despite large traffic safety program investments, motor vehicle accidents continue to impose high costs, particularly in the U.S. Crash casualty rates have ended their long-term decline and recently started to increase. New strategies are needed to achieve ambitious traffic safety targets such as Vision Zero....The current paradigm favors targeted safety programs that reduce special risks such as youth, senior and impaired driving. A new paradigm recognizes that all vehicle travel imposes risks, and so supports vehicle travel reduction strategies such as more multimodal planning, efficient transport pricing, Smart Growth development policies, and other TDM strategies.
If we really want safer roads and less death we need to drive less often, drive shorter distances, and drive more slowly. That's what our policy actions should aim to accomplish, not driving more carefully while driving as often, driving the same distances, and driving the same speeds. It's driving in general, not "targeted safety programming" we need to think more about.

At Morningside

Tieing up Traffic worse than death and safety
The Morningside Neighborhood Assocation meets this week, and while there's nothing of great interest on the agenda, a couple of notes from December's minutes are worth a comment.

The prospect of more crosswalks and signals on South Commercial made one neighbor worry about "a spate of new applications for ones...which could further tie-up traffic."

Never mind the safety and comfort of those who might travel on foot! This attitude for free-flow, unimpeded, even high-speed, travel is an important ingredient in our death rates and the resistance to reducing them.

A new light at 12th & McGilchrist
The new light on 12th at McGilchrist is up and running, and the new clinic is nearly done. It will be interesting to see how the new turn lane and associated widening between Hoyt and Fairview affects it. The masts for the traffic signals seem awfully close to the street - but maybe more of the right-of-way for the new lane will actually come from the left side, not the right. It's also a small disappointment that both of the clinics are fronted with big parking lots, which might more interestingly have been placed to the side or even fully in back.

The Morningside Neighborhood Association meets at Pringle Creek Community Painters Hall,  3911 Village Center Drive SE on Wednesday the 10th at 6:30 PM.


Anonymous said...

From the post: It's driving in general, not "targeted safety programming" we need to think more about.

I don't dispute the likely correlation that crashes increase with increases in VMT. And, providing more choices for walking and biking is not only what people want (see 2016 DHM suvey done for Salem) but will likely improve safety.

BUT, let's remember that according to state crash data, about one-third (119) of fatalities involved alcohol; 100 fatalities due to speeding; 65 fatalities due to unrestrained passenger vehicle occupants (i.e. no seatbelts); 45 fatalities to motorcyclists. Targeted safety programs that go toward enforcement and education should not be overlooked or underfunded.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I had to read the headline for this blog post twice!

John Hall said...

It's not just a Portland or Oregonian problem. It's nationwide and the auto industry is not helping matters when you look at the slant in some of their commercials and how drivers are portrayed.

Anonymous said...

(Different Anon, here...)

Cross-posted from City Observatory, at BikePortland Joe Cortright leans into the case against "driving in general":

"The grisly trend indicated by the traffic death data of the past three years tells us that as hard as we’re trying to achieve Vision Zero, we’re not trying hard enough. The biggest risk factor is just the sheer amount of driving we do, and with the boost to driving in recent years from lower fuel prices, it was predictable that deaths would increase. If we’re serious about Vision Zero, we ought to be doing more to design places where people can easily live while driving less, and where people can walk without regularly confronting speeding automobiles."