October 21, 2009
The Metrorail collision in June 2009 prompted a spate of articles about the Metrorail system. To evaluate the relative safety of Metrorail compared to driving, the Coalition for Smarter Growth collected the following statistics.
Nationwide Comparison of Driving and Rail Safety
1) Highway crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans 3 to 34 years old, and the third leading cause of death in the U.S. among all persons under the age of 70.
2) In 2007, 41,059 people were killed and 2,491,000 people were injured in the estimated 6,024,000 police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes. On average, that translates to one crash every 5.2 seconds, one injury every 12.7 seconds, and one death every 12.8 minutes.
3) Passenger car, vans, SUVs and light truck deaths are nearly nine times greater than heavy rail transit passenger deaths (from collisions and derailments) per billion passenger miles.
4) In 2005, the odds of a passenger dying from a vehicle collision were 1 in 20 thousand (20,331) compared to 1 in 42 million (42,358,152) from a heavy rail transit accident.
5) According to Todd Littman at the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute, as transit ridership increases, per capita traffic fatalities tend to decline. Cities with rail systems tend to have lower traffic fatalities
6) Highway deaths fell significantly in 2008, estimated at a 10.7 percent decrease by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The GHSA report states that high gas prices and the recession led people to drive less, reducing vehicle miles traveled and resulting in fewer fatalities