This photo of a damaged car has little to do with this post.
In fatal crashes, the driver is more often the one that lives. Woman’s SUV falls off bridge, killing two people j.mp/14Sz4DX
— Steven Vance (@stevevance) February 13, 2013
Then my friend Alex E. asked, “Is there a reason why?”
I can’t leave such a question hanging. I thought I read that somewhere, and it was probably in Tom Vanderbilt’s book, Traffic. What I found in there mostly referred to trucks (the semi-trailer type) because of their mass and how people not driving trucks behave around them on the road. The second part explained the statistics around who lives and dies in crashes involving a drunk driver.
Knowing that, and knowing the story I tweeted a link to, you’ll see that the event didn’t involve a truck and my relating them was perhaps unsuitable. It did involve drunk driving, but I may have misread the book text.
Here’s what Traffic says about trucks
“When trucks and cars collide, nearly nine of ten times it’s the truck driver who walks away alive.” Vanderbilt discusses how that is (page 247).
…we all likely have proof of the dangerous nature of trucks. We have seen cars crumpled on the roadside. We’ve heard news stories of truck drivers, wired on stimulants, forced to drive the deregulated trucking industry’s increasingly long shifts. We can easily recall being tailgated or cut off by some crazy trucker.
Just one thing complicates this image of trucks as the biggest hazard on the road today: In most cases, when cars and trucks collide, the car bears the greater share of what are called “contributory factors”.
Really? Car drivers caused crashes with trucks and then die from it?
Instead of relying on drivers’ accounts, he [Daniel Blower at Michigan Transport Research Institute] looked at “unmistakable” physical evidence. “In certain crash types like head-ons, the vehicle that crosses the center much more likely contributed to the crash than the vehicle that didn’t cross the center line”.
After examining more than five thousand fatal truck-car crashes, Blower found that in 70 percent of cases, the driver of the car had the sole contributing responsibility in the crash.
Basically, the car drivers in a car-truck crash caused the crash and ended up being the ones dying.
…the reason trucks are dangerous seems to have more to do with the action sof car drivers combined with the physcial characteristics of trucks and less to do with the actions of truck drivers. “The caricature that we have that the highways are thronged with fatigued, drug-addled truck drivers is, I think, just wrong”, Blower said.
“In a light vehicle, you are correct to be afraid of them, but its not because the drivers are disproportionately aggressive or bad drivers”, Blower said. “It’s because of physics, truck design, the different performance characteristics. You can make a mistake around a Geo Metro and live to tell about it. You make that same mistake around a truck and you could easily be dead.”
What Traffic says about drunk driving
Of the 11,000 drunk-driving fatalities studied by economists Steven D. Levitt and Jack Porter, 72% were the crash-causing drunk driver or their passengers, and 28% were the other drivers (most of whom were not drunk themselves) (page 251).
About Steven Can Plan
I started this blog in 2007 as the writing assignment for an introductory urban planning class at UIC. It's about cities (mainly Chicago), GIS oftentimes, and transportation (mainly bicycling). Learn more about me, Steven Vance. I also write for Streetsblog Chicago.
Steven Can Plan is hosted on Dreamhost.
Chicago Bike Map App
The Chicago Bike Map app is a bike and street map stored entirely in your iOS device – no data connection required. The map is designed to look much like the City of Chicago's official printed and online bike map. The app works on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
Highly Recommended Bike Products
I've used this pannier to carry groceries, books, my laptop, clothing, anything. I like it because it's stylish (but also "normal" looking at the same time), stands up on its own, is extremely durable, and has the most universal attachment system: two hooks.
Bells can be quite useful, especially to tell people in front that you're passing them. I like the ding-dong bell the best. It makes a solid DING and then DONG on the spring's return.
The best value taillight. It has three red LEDs that alternate and provide extreme brightness. I have two of these.
The Practice of Local Government Planning (Municipal Management Series) by
You could basically design and administer a new town kind of effectively after reading this huge and boring textbook.
Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS by John Krygier PhD, Denis Wood PhD
If you are going to make a map, whether it be hand drawn or digital, you should really give this book a read. Then read it every time you make a map. It will help make sure your maps are laid out sensibly, in a way that others can easily read, and that it doesn't include fluff or unnecessary data.
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt
As someone who doesn't like driving, but believes that cars can be efficient in moving groups of people and goods, this is my favorite book.