Traffic Fatalities and Injuries

Indicator: 
Number of pedestrian, bicyclist, and vehicle occupant fatalities and serious injuries within the greater Portland region.
Outcome(s): 
Healthy and safety: Transportation system that enhances human health and safety.
Significance: 

Transportation related crashes cause personal tragedy, congestion, and loss of productivity while contributing to rising health care costs. In 2009, traffic collisions resulted in 120 fatalities and 15,996 injuries in the Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton metropolitan statistical area (MSA). The total cost for the MSA was $2,549,000,000, or $1,220 per person (Cambridge Systematics, Inc.). Eighty-eight percent of the fatalities and 94 percent of the injuries occurred in Clark, Clackamas, Washington or Multnomah counties.

The safety of the region’s transportation system is especially important for bicyclists and pedestrians, where the impacts of crash are generally greater than for other users of the system. As perceptions of safety can influence the extent to which individuals choose to bike or walk, this indicator is especially relevant in terms of increasing biking and walking in the region.

Data (click image for interactive version): 

Total traffic fatalities in the greater Portland region per million miles driven, 1994 - 2011

Source: Oregon Department of Transportation, Washington Department of Transportation, Texas Transportation Institute Urban Mobility Report

Total pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and injuries in the greater Portland region, 2006-2011

Source: Oregon Department of Transportation; Washington Department of Transportation

Traffic fatalities and injuries, by county, 2010 - 2011

Source: Oregon Department of Transportation; Washington Department of Transportation

Finding & Trends: 

Traffic fatalities per million miles driven were 50 percent lower in 2011 than in 1994. Although the decline has not been steady, with numbers increasing some years and declining others, an overall downward trend is evident. This is consistent with national trends. Highway deaths data from 2011 represent a 26 percent decline in traffic fatalities overall since 2005 (NHTSA).

Each year between 2006 and 2011, pedestrian serious injuries and fatalities have been higher that bicycle serious injuries and fatalities. This is most likely due to higher pedestrian traffic than bicycle traffic.

In 2011, bicycle fatalities represented roughly 7 percent of all traffic fatalities in the greater Portland region. Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 24 percent of all traffic fatalities. Based on data about environmentally friendly transportation modes, it appears that the percentage of fatalities for both cyclists and pedestrians are disproportionate to their use.

For additional information about Transportation Safety in our region visit the Coalition for a Livable Future's Regional Equity Atlas.

Driver(s): 
Walkability
Perception of transportation system safety
Quality and level of access to bike infrastructure
Infrastructure design
Driver behavior
Posted travel speeds
Amount and quality of educational campaigns for traffic laws, fitness, health
Using the indicator to drive change: 

Measuring crashes provides an indication of how safe the regional transportation system is for all modal users. By measuring only the most severe crashes, this indicator will allow the region to look at crashes that have the greatest impact on persons, property and the transportation system as a whole. Going forward, the region can use this information to look at what factors are contributing to these crashes and to identify what steps need to be taken to minimize future occurrences. Advances in engineering, improved public education, and changes in public policy can reduce the number and severity of crashes that occur.

Methodology: 

Fatalities include crashes in which the death occurred within 30 days from the time of the crash. A severe injury is a non-fatal injury that prevents the injured person from walking, driving or normally continuing the activities the person was capable of performing before the injury occurred. Examples include broken bones, severe bleeding and unconsciousness.

The geography for traffic fatalities and injuries is the greater Portland region which includes Clackamas County, OR;  Multnomah County, OR; Washington County, OR; Clark County, WA. Please note that the geography used varies across different indicators.

Metadata

Disclaimer: 
This indicator is based on information from credible sources. However, changes in collection methods and statistical procedures that have occurred over time may affect the data presented. Limitations that are acknowledged by the sources are noted below. Nevertheless, caution should be taken when interpreting all available data. In Oregon and Washington, it is the responsibility of the individual drivers involved in a crash to report it to the Department of Transportation. Thus, there is no guarantee that all qualifying crashes are represented or that all details pertaining to a single crash are accurate.
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