The Antiplanner has previously noted the frightening increase in highway fatalities in the last few years and suggested it might be related to growing traffic congestion. An alternative view is presented in a new paper by researchers at Purdue University titled “Death by Pokémon Go.” The paper found that the release of the Pokémon Go game led to a “disproportionate increase in vehicular crashes and . . . fatalities in the vicinity of locations, called Poke?Stops, where users can play the game while driving.”
After mysteriously collapsing by 25 percent between 2005 and 2010–the biggest five-year decline in 60 years–the number of fatalities remained roughly constant at around 32,500 for five years. But between 2014 and 2016, they grew by 15 percent, or nearly 4,800 deaths. While one computer game isn’t responsible for all 4,800 deaths, the study suggests that the growth of cell phone apps–from 800 iPhone apps in 2008 to more than 2 million today–and related distracted driving could be responsible for much of the increase.
Comparing 2016 fatalities with those from 2005 shows a 14 percent decline overall. However, the decline for occupants of motor vehicles is much larger, while non-occupant fatalities actually increased. Continue reading
Comments on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration‘s proposed vehicle-to-vehicle communications mandate are due one week from today on April 12. If approved, this will be one of the most expensive vehicle safety rules ever, adding around $300 dollars to the price of every car, or (at recent car sales rates) well over $5 billion per year.
Despite the high cost, the NHTSA predicts the rule will save only about 25 to 31 lives in 2025, mainly because it will do no good until most cars have it. Yet even by 2060, when virtually all cars would have it, NHTSA predicts it will save only about 1,000 to 1,365 lives per year.
The real danger is not that it will cost too much per life saved but that mandating one technology will inhibit the development and use of better technologies that could save even more lives at a lower cost. The technology the NHTSA wants to mandate is known as dedicated short-range communications, a form of radio. Yet advancements in cell phones, wifi, and other technologies could do the same thing better for less money.
Good news: The United States had 56,000 structurally deficient bridges in 2016. That’s good news because the number in 2015 was nearly 59,000. In fact, the number has declined in every year since 1992 (the earliest year for which records are available), when it was 124,000.
The American Road and Transportation Builders thinks 2016’s number is a good reason to jump on the trillion-dollar infrastructure bandwagon in the hope that federal funds will be available to enrich its members. But this is a problem that is solving itself without any new federal programs.
The bad news is that highway fatalities in 2016 grew to more than 40,000, at least as reckoned by the National Safety Council. NSC’s numbers are about 7.5 percent higher than the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s because the latter only counts deaths that take place immediately after accidents, but still this is a cause for alarm because as it indicates a 15 percent since 2011, or about 5,000 people a year.