March 28 , 2007. 3:00-4:30pm. Porter Hall 223D, Carnegie Mellon University

Alternatives for Measuring Traffic Fatality Risks: A Fatal Flaw of Safety Awareness

Presenters:David Gerard, Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University and Paul Fischbeck, Engineering and Public Policy and Social and Decision Sciences , Carnegie Mellon University

Traffic incidents account for more than 40,000 fatalities per year in the U.S., and are one of the leading causes of death for individuals through age 55, making personal travel for vehicle passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists a relatively risky activity. Nevertheless, there are few articles written describing these baseline risks (Kweon and Kockelman, Halperin). Moreover, media reports often list the number of deaths as a proxy for risk, even though fatalities and fatality risk are often uncorrelated. As a result, the man-on-the-street generally does not know the baseline risks and therefore information might not be useful for decision making, either for individuals or for public policy makers. In this paper, we describe a number of alternatives for measuring traffic fatality risks for drivers, vehicle passengers, and non-motorists and draw on a number of case studies to illustrate how these measures compare.