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Carnegie Mellon Researchers Develop Interactive Web Site To Improve Travel Risk Information


PITTSBURGH — Carnegie Mellon University engineers will unveil Traffic STATS — an interactive Web site that can inform consumers about how traffic fatality risks vary by time of day, vehicle type, age and other categories — at the 86th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Jan. 21–25 in Washington, D.C.

Carnegie Mellon faculty Paul Fischbeck, David Gerard and Randy Weinberg; consultant Barbara Gengler; and a team of student researchers developed Traffic STATS (Statistics on Travel Safety) for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to improve risk information available to policymakers and the public. The tool provides a different perspective on travel safety.

“Generally, people measure safety only by the number of fatalities, but a much better way is to think in terms of risk, for example, fatalities per mile,” said Fischbeck, director of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for the Study and Improvement of Regulation (CSIR) and professor in the departments of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy. “Every year, more than five times more people die in cars than on motorcycles, but there are 30 times more deaths per mile on motorcycles than in passenger cars. Motorcycles are 30 times riskier. With Traffic STATS, anyone can compare travel fatality risks across different age groups, regions of the country and other dimensions,” Fischbeck said.

Traffic STATS shows that:

* While it’s been reported that SUVs and passenger cars have about the same fatality risks, SUVs are driven more and carry more people. Therefore, the SUV fatality risks are 20 percent less than in a car.
* Fatality risks are higher in the summer than the winter. In the mountain states, summer fatality risks are twice as high as the winter months when measured in deaths per passenger mile.
* An 18-year-old male and an 80-year-old female have the same driving risks.
* On a per-trip basis, 45- to 54-year-old pedestrians are four times more likely to be killed than elementary school children.

The researchers used a national database with more than one million demographic variables to calculate their findings.


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