The most amazing thing I've seen in some time appeared in the Calgary Herald this morning. I looked at it, and was horrified. My first question was, why do we let this go on?
Let me backtrack. An engineer named Dustin Jones plotted 16 years of automobile / pedestrian collisions from police data onto a map, and released it. Here's a link to it. Take a moment to look, it's worth it even if you don't live in Calgary. I'll guarantee that if the same thing was done to your town or city, it would look much the same.
Every one of those dots is pain and suffering, and there are a lot of dots. There are so many he ran out of dots, and started to use flags. The purple ones represent between 30 and 50 collisions AT ONE INTERSECTION!
I love this guy! He's taken reams and reams of data that have been ignored by everyone who knew about it. An abstract report giving these numbers doesn't mean anything to anybody, except maybe a traffic engineer. Even a graph wouldn't really do much. But put it on a map, and holy cow. A data visualization like this will smack you upside the head. Nobody can ignore it.
If you live in Calgary, find your house on this map. How far away is the nearest dot? How often have you walked past that intersection? What about where you work, and however much of the route there you walk? What about the route your children take to school? Where's the nearest dot or flag? Downtown is awash with them. My house is a corner lot, and there is no dot there, but the next intersection in each direction has a dot. No matter where I park for work, I can't help but walk past a dot or flag.
In the print issue of the Herald there was a letter to the editor by an idiot saying that drivers are pure as driven snow and it's those darn pedestrians flinging themselves under the wheels of vehicles. Bah! There is no shortage of pedestrians that do stupid things in traffic. I've seen them. But it's drivers too, big time. I've nearly been struck by cars several times, and only paying vigilant attention gave me time to dodge out of the way, and once I was on the sidewalk. Eventually, as I get older and slower, I fear one of them will get me. I'd like to change the system now.
My only real beef with Mr. Jones is that he calls them accidents. THEY ARE NOT! Most emphatically, they are not accidents, and we have to stop calling them that. They are collisions. They have a cause. The choices are driver error, or pedestrian error, but one of them made a mistake. Maybe, rarely, both of them. I tend to believe drivers make the most mistakes for two reasons. Pedestrians are the one with skin in the game, and walking downtown I see a lot more driver error. We would need to put a lot more investigation into these collisions to truly determine who is at fault. Maybe we should.
A nice to have on this map would be an additional flag to note where the deaths have occurred, but maybe that's just morbid. The data is there if you click on the little dots. Allow me to digress a moment. This is a wonderful example of the power of data. I totally applaud Mr. Jones. This is why information should be free. I never would have thought of mapping the data like this, and I'm glad he did. I'd like to see more data freed up, and see what the ingenuity of other people will produce. There is no way that this will not impel changes in how we deal with such collisions.
I couldn't even begin to count the cost to our health system for all those people and their families represented by all those dots. It has to be substantial, and so preventable. Even a no injury collision means that someone probably at least went to a walk in clinic or their family doctor just to be sure. Many would have visited the emergency department, taking up untold and increasingly scarce medical resources. Think of the time taken by emergency services such as police and fire, and by the City road crews. Think of all the time taken off productive work to get medical attention and followup therapy of various kinds. Think of all those other people tied up in traffic because of the collision.
Now, the hard question. What do we do about it? My first thought is to get some skin in the game for drivers. Any collision with a pedestrian should mean the driver is required to attend a weekend advanced driver training school and some (100 hours?) of community service dealing with survivors of auto collisions. It goes on their record. Next time, if there is a next time, there's a formal investigation of the collision, with a big fine and points that would lead to an insurance increase. I hesitate to use the term three strikes and you're out, but it's tempting. More than a small number of collisions with anything (other vehicles, pedestrians, stationary objects) is a demonstration of fundamental driver incompetence. Such people should lose their driver's license permanently.
Being in a car is one of the most dangerous things a North American does. All of us are part of the problem. Are you still sneaking a look at that text that just arrived, and it only needs a word or two to respond so you do? THEN YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT! How many close calls have you had recently? Close calls are an indication of a problem; man up and deal with it. Do you distract the driver, or let yourself get distracted by anything other than the task at hand? Do you think you're the most important person on the road? Grow up. Safety on the roads is shared. We're only as safe as the least safe of us.
Dash cams are cheap now. Maybe a driver involved in a pedestrian collision should be required to buy, install, and use a dash cam. They aren't expensive. Having it off during a next collision should be treated as a crime itself. If the record shows that semi-mythical pedestrian flinging themselves under their wheels, then the driver is off the hook.
Don't even get me started on impaired drivers. My solution involves heads on pikes. You only think I'm kidding.
And pedestrians, I'm looking at you too. There cannot be anything on your mobile phone that is as essential to your well being as looking both ways before setting foot in the street.
For those that didn't click on the link, this is a partial screen shot of what you missed, showing downtown and part of International Ave.
In other news, I'm feeling much better. Well enough to go to work and be productive, but not quite well enough for a workout yet. Not going to push it.
Looking for discussion here. What do you think we should do to prevent any more dots from going on the map?