Death By Trainlessness


Randal Archibald writes for The New York Times about the recent fatal rail crash in LA: “Warning System Could Prevent Train Crashes.” And of course as a rail transit booster, I certainly favor efforts to improve train safety.

Still, it’s worth noting that there won’t be any headlines tomorrow about the car crashes that could have been avoided by building more and better rail networks. We had 37,248 fatal car crashes in 2007. That’s over 100 every day. And yet you don’t see “100 Die Nationwide in Car Crashes” on a daily basis in the headlines. We just take it for granted that most Americans will make almost all of their trips via the most dangerous possible way of getting around. One person dies for about every 415,000 vehicle miles traveled.

The considerable environmental benefits of shifting our transportation infrastructure so that a minority of people would drive radically less and most people would drive somewhat less are so large that the environmental case for such shifts has tended to crowd out other arguments. But in many ways the public health benefits are even more clear cut.

STRONG: Apologies — one fatality for every 415,000 vehicle miles traveled is a ridiculously low figure and implies something like universal death by car accident. There were about three trillion vehicle miles traveled in 2007. Three trillion divided by 37,248 is, unless I’m making another mistake, about 80 million.