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Thread: Motor fatalities uptick

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Motor fatalities uptick

    An increase in motorcycle and pedestrian deaths contributed to an overall rise in highway fatalities in 2005, the U.S. Department of Transportation?s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced today. The total number of fatalities rose 1.4 percent from 42,836 in 2004 to 43,443 in 2005 while the rate of fatalities was 1.47 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), up from 1.45 in 2004.

    Despite the spike in motorcycle and pedestrian fatalities, Acting Secretary of Transportation Maria Cino noted other fatality trends were improving. She explained that the number of young drivers dying in car crashes declined in 2005 for the third straight year while the number of children who were killed in crashes also declined. The largest drop was for children ages 8-15.

    ?We have no tolerance for any numbers higher than zero,? said Acting Secretary Cino. ?Motorcyclists need to wear their helmets, drivers need to buckle up and all motorists need to stay sober.?

    The Acting Secretary said the increase in vehicle fatalities comes from the dramatic rise in the number of motorcycle fatalities and increases in the number of pedestrian fatalities over the previous year. She noted, for example, that motorcycle fatalities rose 13 percent from 4,028 in 2004 to 4,553 in 2005 and that almost half of the people who died were not wearing a helmet. The number of pedestrian fatalities increased to 4,881 in 2005 from 4,675 in 2004, the Acting Secretary added. NHTSA is investigating this year?s increase in pedestrian fatalities to determine the cause.

    Cino said NHTSA is working to reduce the number of motorcycle fatalities by encouraging motorcyclists to get proper training, always wear helmets, and absolutely never drink and ride. She added that the Department?s Federal Highway Administration is working with state and local governments to improve pedestrian safety and that the agency is providing more than $600 million over the next three years to help states develop pedestrian safety programs.

    Specifically, NHTSA?s Fatality Analysis Reporting System shows that, between 2004 and 2005, the number of young drivers (16-20) killed declined by 4.6 percent from 3,538 to 3,374. Fatal crashes involving young drivers declined by 6.3 percent from 7,431 to 6,964. Meanwhile, the number of children 0-15 dying in crashes dropped from 2,622 in 2004 to 2,348 in 2005.

    Cino added that the number of people injured in motor vehicle crashes declined 3.2 percent from 2.8 million in 2004 to 2.7 million in 2005. Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities also dropped by 451, from 31,866 in 2004 to 31,415 in 2005, the lowest level since 1994.

    In addition, the number of fatalities from large truck crashes declined slightly from 5,235 to 5,212, while the number of occupants killed in rollover crashes increased 2.1 percent from 10,590 to 10, 816. And the number of SUV rollover fatalities dropped 1.8 percent from 2,929 to 2,877.

    ?We will not be satisfied until the fatality and injury numbers reach zero,? said NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason.

    NHTSA collects crash statistics annually from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to produce annual reports of traffic fatality trends. The 2005 report can be seen at: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd...006/810639.pdf

  2. #2
    JohnB
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Interestingly enough, in the 3 years after CA enacted mandatory helmet usage in motorcycles the number of motorcycle accident related deaths increased while the number of accidents went down.


  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnB
    Interestingly enough, in the 3 years after CA enacted mandatory helmet usage in motorcycles the number of motorcycle accident related deaths increased while the number of accidents went down.

    Yep... and it's interesting how so many people think a helmet solves the problem. It's great for keeping your noggin in one piece... but what about the rest of your hide? Hmmm. I'm not in favor of mandatory stuff, as you know - but if you're going to ride, you ought to ride withgear - full gear. If you don't, you're basically saying you don't mind being crippled or suffering potentially fatal injuries to vital organs, etc.

    So long as your face looks good for the wake!

  4. #4
    JohnB
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnB
    Interestingly enough, in the 3 years after CA enacted mandatory helmet usage in motorcycles the number of motorcycle accident related deaths increased while the number of accidents went down.

    So long as your face looks good for the wake!
    ... and leave a good looking corpse...<g> yeah

  5. #5
    trafficengn
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Hmmm,

    It's amazing how so much can say so little. The bottom line -- a change from 1.45 fatalities/100 million VMT to 1.47 fat./100 million VMT hardly seems statistically significant. I would bet that there is at least that much error in the VMT data to begin with. So, that change is essentially meaningless.

    But, since there was an "increase" the safety experts apparently felt a need to explain it. Thus the search for the cause. The cynic in me finds it interesting that the two groups put to blame -- motorcyclists and pedestrians are two of the groups that NHTSA receives funding to "target". My cynicism is fueled by the statement "almost half of the people (motorcyclists) who died were not wearing a helmet" -- implying that this is one of the reasons for the increase. Stated without the double speak that sentence would read "The majority of motorcyclists killed WERE wearing helmets." Of course by normal NHTSA logic the conclusion would be that wearing helmets must contribute to fatal accidents. That's what they do when the statistics imply what they want them to imply. Of course in this case the statistics don't say what they want them to so they turn the sentence around so that it sounds like lack of helmet usage should be indicted here -- thereby getting them funding to push for helmet usage.

    In reality doesn't the dataa suggest that we need to look beyond helmet usage to determine how to explain the increase in motorcycle accidents? The thing that is missing from both the pedestrian data and motorcycle data is exposure numbers. For the overall accidents they calculate an accident rate per miles traveled. There is no such data given for either motorcyclists or pedestrians. Perhaps there are simply more people riding and walking than in past years. Without that basic data we really can't go any further with a useful analysis.

    Unfortunately, it is pretty much impossible to get that sort of number for pedestrians. For all we know the increase in pedestrian fatalities simply reflects the success of all the communities who are encouraging more people to walk. But there's no way of knowing for sure. Motorcycles might be a little better. We could at least get registration numbers to see if the number of registered bikes has gone up. That isn't miles driven but it's at least something. Of course that's not where the money lies. The money lies in quick fixes like helmet usage. So that's apparently where NHTSA will be hanging there hats (no pun intended).

    At least they didn't try to blame higher speed limits . . . . . . . . yet :-(

  6. #6
    JohnB
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Quote Originally Posted by trafficengn
    Of course in this case the statistics don't say what they want them to so they turn the sentence around so that it sounds like lack of helmet usage should be indicted here -- thereby getting them funding to push for helmet usage.

    In reality doesn't the dataa suggest that we need to look beyond helmet usage to determine how to explain the increase in motorcycle accidents? The thing that is missing from both the pedestrian data and motorcycle data is exposure numbers.
    Another factor is the perceived "safety quotient" that most people get when they either wear a helmet, have airbags or ABS in their cars... "I can't get hurt, I'm protected" so they tend to drive more reckelessly or take chances that they woudln't otherwise. -- I know that in all the years I rode without a motorcycle helmet I was way more careful and watchful than I would have been if I were encased in plastic.

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    [quote authcle accidents? The thing that is missing from both the pedestrian data and motorcycle data is exposure numbers. Another factor is the perceived "safety quotient" that most people get when they either wear a helmet, have airbags or ABS in their cars... "I can't get hurt, I'm protected" so they tend to drive more reckelessly or take chances that they woudln't otherwise. -- I know that in all the years I rode without a motorcycle helmet I was way more careful and watchful than I would have been if I were encased in plastic.
    Absolutely true - and there is evidence in support of this as regards ABS, in particular. Make cars "safer" - and people will push the envelope more than they otherwise might....

  8. #8
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    I don't agree with the hypothesis that having more safety features on a car, (ie, better brakes, steering, suspension,) would cause accidents to increase. There have been consistent reductions in the fatality rates since the beginning of the automobile with the exception of 1977-1981 (when the 55 mph speed limit was enforced heavily), much of it due to improved roads and cars. On the other hand, early results indicated that cars with ABS were having more accidents and fatalities than equivalent non-ABS cars. This was back in 1994-95. The only thing that ABS has done is make cars more expensive and braking systems more complex, harder to maintain, in my opinion.

    My present car thankfully does not have ABS. It rides and drives fine, and I have never locked the wheels unless I did it intentionally. People are quick to buy the hype.

    That said,I suspect that the uptick in the fatality rates has nothing to do with ABS, higher speed limits, but rather deteriorating roads. The feds and the states have been diverting highway money for demonstration projects, political pork and funding the NHTSA at the expense of roadway improvements and highway widening. I believe that we have reached the point of diminishing returns when it comes to improvements in the fatality rates. Until issues of roadway capacity, traffic management, sineage, and nightime lighting are addressed, this trend is likely to continue. In addition, the NHTSA should look at revising the headlight standards to European levels. Improvements will only be seen when real issues are addressed.



  9. #9
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat
    That said,I suspect that the uptick in the fatality rates has nothing to do with ABS, higher speed limits, but rather deteriorating roads.
    I suspect you have named one of the major causes.


  10. #10
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Hi Swamp,

    Today's cars have a much higher "envelope" - that is, they feel safer at much higher speeds, stop more predictably and so on. People do tend to drive them much faster and harder. The Ford Explorer/tire debacle is a case in point. Dunno how old you are, but if you ever drove a typical truck/SUV of the '70s at 80-90 mph (with no overdrive transmission, remember), you know it got pretty sketchy at anything mych over 70. The engine was screaming at 3,000-plus RPM. The tires were groaning, the whole thing was starting to shake/vibrate - clear indications you were "pushing it." Today, you can cruise at 80-90 in an SUV and it feels completely serene - like doing 45 in one of the old beasts. This gives people a false sense of security.

    ABS can work the same way. People rely on the system to prevent skidding out - and they drive faster in the ran and so on than they would have in years past. Not everyone - but some people, especially those who weren't driving pre-ABScars and don't really grasp things like stopping distances, etc.


  11. #11
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Eric:

    I agree about the fact that cars are able to handle much higher speeds than they were years ago. I am 43, so I remember driving some crappy cars from the 1960's and the 1970's. My 66 Mustang handled like a garbage truck and my parents 78 Seville drove like a pickup. I never drove the Stang above 85, because it felt like you were going 130 + in todays cars.

    That said, I don't believe todays cars offer a "false feeling of security." It is just that they can handle higher speeds than the crap cars of yore. I'm glad that the old crap is largely off the roads today and that we have speed limits that are closer to reality than 55 mph was, even in 1974. Therefore, I can't understand why anyone would want to drive a 1965 Bonneville, a 57 Chevy or a 1968 Mustang. Although they looked good, they handled like crap. The European cars of the day were light years ahead of the crap cars on US highways in the 60s and 70s.

    Today the situation is different. We have essentially caught up and cars today are excellent. I'd buy an American car anyday.

    Thats not the point, though. In my opinion, we don't have a "false sense of security". If we did, we'd have a fatality rate twice what it is now. The fact is, that per mile driven, we are killing far fewer people per mile than we did in 1975, when we had 55 and crappy cars.

    I wouldn't trade the cars today for a fleet of 68 Thunderbirds.




  12. #12
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat

    I wouldn't trade the cars today for a fleet of 68 Thunderbirds.
    Yeah - but they had style! (And personality, t oo.)

    I did a story a few years back on this issue and have been trying to find it - in part because it got into a study done on ABS-equipped cars and how the technology (and the security it both provided and implied) did make some drivers feel they could "push it" more than they could in a non-ABS car.

    This is really a common sensical thing. All the old cars you describe - like you, I know 'em well. And when I drive (or drove) them, I always took account of their much lower built-in capabilities - while in a modern car, one can get closer to the edge, drive harder/faster - and so on - with less risk.

    Trouble is, we have such low standards for driver licensing/training that any idiot now has access to 130 mph-capable cars. In a way, the older cars were a formof built-inidiot-proofing.. and I kinda miss that sometimes... .


  13. #13
    rc74racer
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    I think overall people are not paying attention like they use too. Cars today are easier to drive and come with so many more distracting gadgets not to mention CELL PHONES! I also see a lot of over crowding in suburban areas and traffic problems have increased dramatically too because of this.

  14. #14
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Quote Originally Posted by rc74racer
    I think overall people are not paying attention like they use too. Cars today are easier to drive and come with so many more distracting gadgets not to mention CELL PHONES! I also see a lot of over crowding in suburban areas and traffic problems have increased dramatically too because of this.
    Agreed - almost been whacked a couple time by cell phone Chatty Kathys and Businessman Bobs!

  15. #15
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat
    My 66 Mustang handled like a garbage truck and my parents 78 Seville drove like a pickup. I never drove the Stang above 85, because it felt like you were going 130 + in todays cars.
    It's evident that you missed out on some nice options for the 66, most of which were quite well hidden. Mine I ordered in Germany through the AFEX system, where no options were bundled and all options were available. Several steering and suspension options helped the Mustang handle better.


  16. #16
    trafficengn
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    I tend to agree with what Swamprat is saying about safety features on cars. While I like to question statistics, it is pretty hard to argue with the long term downward trend in fatal accident rates in the U.S. There may be some false sense of security related to modern safety features. But, for the most part, the safety features (or at least some of them) have done what they were intended to do -- make cars safer.

    I don't agree with Swamprat's notion that deteriorating roads are to blame for the increase in fatalities last year. First, let's remember that it was an insignificant increase in fatalities and the long term trend is still down. Roads didn't just start deteriorating last year. It's been ongoing. If it was a big issue it would have shown up before now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Trouble is, we have such low standards for driver licensing/training that any idiot now has access to 130 mph-capable cars.
    I think this is more on the money. And, I think it at least partially explains the increase in motorcycle fatalities noted in the NHTSA press release at the start of this thread. Motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than cars. If you look at the number of registered motorcycles over the past 10 years it has gone up exorbitantly. Motorcycles take even more training to drive safely on than cars do. So, we've started with poorly trained drivers and then put them on more dangerous vehicles.

    If we really want to improve safety, standards for drivers need to be increased -- even more so for motorcyclists. But, that is hard to do in our country where driving is seen as a right and motorcycling is perceived as a way to express our freedom. So, we may indeed be reaching the point of diminishing returns on improving safety -- unless people become willing to accept more restrictions.

  17. #17
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    [quote author we have such low standards for driver licensing/training that any idiot now has access to 130 mph-capable cars.I think this is more on the money. And, I think it at least partially explains the increase in motorcycle fatalities noted in the NHTSA press release at the start of this thread. Motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than cars. If you look at the number of registered motorcycles over the past 10 years it has gone up exorbitantly. Motorcycles take even more training to drive safely on than cars do. So, we've started with poorly trained drivers and then put them on more dangerous vehicles.

    If we really want to improve safety, standards for drivers need to be increased -- even more so for motorcyclists. But, that is hard to do in our country where driving is seen as a right and motorcycling is perceived as a way to express our freedom. So, we may indeed be reaching the point of diminishing returns on improving safety -- unless people become willing to accept more restrictions.

    Yes - and the biggest uptick is among older, first-time riders on big (heavy) cruiser bikes... Goldwings, Harley dressers and their Japanese equivalents. These are the trendy bikes for middle-aged guys now - and many have never ridden anything before they strap one on... with predictable results.

    Sport riders are probably more at risk from outright risk-taking and even reckless riding; the phenom of the older "newbie" on a 600 pound hog who drops it at a traffic light (or when trying to make a tight turn) is a recent one...

  18. #18
    trafficengn
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    Re: Motor fatalities uptick

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Yes - and the biggest uptick is among older, first-time riders on big (heavy) cruiser bikes... Goldwings, Harley dressers and their Japanese equivalents. These are the trendy bikes for middle-aged guys now - and many have never ridden anything before they strap one on... with predictable results.

    Sport riders are probably more at risk from outright risk-taking and even reckless riding; the phenom of the older "newbie" on a 600 pound hog who drops it at a traffic light (or when trying to make a tight turn) is a recent one...
    I think that's exactly right. It seems like buying a Harley is the expression of many 40 something mid-life crisis's these days. Maybe NHTSA could come up with some graduated licensing program for 40 year old guys who decide they want to go to Sturgis :

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