Friday, November 9, 2007

This just in: Darkness Impairs Vision

I meant to post this last weekend, when clocks changed, but my house has conspired against me to create confusing time zones within my own home. My alarm box changes according to the "old schedule," so it dropped back an hour 2 weeks ago. I am actually afraid to touch it, so I don't try to fix it; I just know that on that flight of stairs, I have entered the past. This morning my cell decided it was 9pm last night, and seems to have no feature for changing it.

But that's not important right now.

What sparked this post was an AP story in last Saturday's paper, A-section in fact. We have become accustomed to the news media warning us that ordinary items in our lives will kill us (especially when we use them just plain wrong). So I was only amused to learn that pedestrians are more likely to be hit by cars in the dark.

To prove this science, a chart was displayed, measuring pedestrian fatalities 1999-2005. November - January, 500 pedestrians are killed each month between 6-7pm. From April - September, it drops below 100 per month between 6-7pm.

This is a great quote; "Their study of risk to pedestrians is preliminary..."
Please fund this study. Rush hour + darkness x pedestrians in the road = fatalities.
We need to learn more

Carnegie Mellon professor David Gerard closes the AP story with this chilling observaton:
"This clearly shows that both drivers and pedestrians should think about this daylight-saving adjustment... There are lives at stake."
cue Law & Order gavel-gong.

It would be easy enough to just make fun of this story as another example of News of the Obvious coverage that pervades, but here at DrawingIn, we take it to the next level.
We ask the Transportation Department.

In the spirit of Guns don't Kill People, the Federal Highway Administration suggests that the "national policy to encourage increased walking" may be partly to blame. If we weren't all walking so much, drivers tailgating in the dark on their cell phones might not hit so many people (about 80,000 people in 1997).

But even FHA admits that it isn't all about reduced visibility -- more pedestrians are out at night and more drivers are drunk after work.

If you want more stats than you can stand, the FHA has them for you, including the aspects that the Carnegie Mellon study may not uncover until they are past the "preliminary" stage.

Pedestrian fatalities are actually down as a proportion of traffic fatalities (if you can agree on what that means - the National Safety Council and the FHA don't, as it turns out) only 14% of total these days. It was once 41% at a time when there were very few traffic fatalies because there were very few cars (1927).

FHA agrees with the finding that over 60% of fatalities occur in the dark, but avoid any indictment of Daylight Saving. They have those secondary stats working in their favor.

This trend in fatalities could be partly associated with rural pedestrian crashes involving high-speed vehicles and pedestrians walking along a dark road or in some cases lying unconscious (sleeping) in the road. In fact, in North Carolina, 10 percent of all pedestrian fatalities involve a pedestrian lying in the road (North Carolina Traffic Accident Facts, 1990).
One more thing to make people feel so good about the South.

I got lost in the bar graphs for a while, and forgot I was writing this. Let me sum up. I already know you are not as interested in this as I am.

If you want to guarantee you are hit by a car, but not willing to fly to NC to lie down in the road, try this instead:

Between 6-9pm on a Friday in October, walk along a dark roadway with no streetlight
It is a statistical sure thing.

It helps if you are between 45 and 75, male and sober. Though a .10% or above will also get you hit, a couple of drinks reduces your changes over being sober. I can't explain that; I just know what the table says.

1 comment:

  1. and you can't write the book about what's-her-face's trip to europe in the little green diary? you have more research skills in a sunday evening than i have in an entire month... :)


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