Transportation safety, part VI (take 2)

The Sightline Institute is still plugging away on its informative Sustainababy series. (OK, so I’m not in love with the name, either, but they’re sure covering issues worth reading about.) Installment 25 is by Jennifer Langston, a Sightline employee and mom who tried transit with her toddler for the first time this summer.

Like many parents, Jennifer had been avoiding PT, in part because of the perceived danger of taking her daughter on a vehicle that doesn’t have child safety seats. But then she and her daughter had a great time riding the Seattle Streetcar for a preschool field trip.

“Bus” was one of her first words. [ahem] She startles strangers on the street by yelling it at the top of her lungs whenever she sees one. Yet she hasn’t actually ridden on one yet. And as I saw how fascinated she was by the streetcar–looking at its reflection in buildings, watching the floor joints move, trying to lick the windows, I found myself asking why I hadn’t done this before.

So, she decided to look into it. Here’s what she found:

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2007 found that, statistically, you’re far more likely to be injured or killed riding in a car than a bus. In fact, riding a bus is safer than walking, bicycling, driving a car, or hopping on a motorcycle. Whether the reason is that sheer size of a bus distributes the crash forces differently or that they travel more slowly, the raw numbers are pretty compelling.*

Here are the annualized injury rates (based on 100 million person trips in the US):
• Motorcycle: 10,336
• Bicycle: 1,461
• Car: 803
• Walking: 216
• Bus: 161

And here are the comparable fatality rates:
• Motorcycle: 537
• Bicycle: 21
• Walking: 14*
• Car: 9***
• Bus: 0.4

Thanks for the informative post, Jennifer, and for trusting transit with your precious cargo. See you guys on the bus!

*I assume they don’t have stats for trains because they aren’t really part of “traffic,” but I’d still like to know what they are.

**The walking and cycling stats aren’t especially encouraging. As the study points out, “…most bus occupants are also pedestrians during some portion of their journeys (e.g., during the trip to and from the bus stop)…Measures to promote pedestrian safety should also consider the routes that provide access to public transportation.”

***So, if 40,000 people die in cars every year, and there are nine deaths per 100 million person trips, that means we’re taking a lot of car trips.

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