New study shows public transit reduces crash risk by 90% over traveling by car

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It’s safer to go by bus! That is the conclusion of a new study that shows that a person can reduce their chance of being in an accident by more than 90% simply by taking public transit, as opposed to commuting by car. This means traveling by public transportation is 10 times safer per mile than traveling by automobile.

A new study released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) suggests that the most effective life-saving traffic safety tool for a commuter and a community may be the daily transit pass. In the study, ‘The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation’, the authors reveal that transit-oriented communities are five times safer, because they have about a fifth the per capita traffic casualty rate (fatalities and injuries) as automobile-oriented communities. This means public transit cuts a community’s crash risk in half, even for those who do not use public transit. Public transportation communities spur compact development, which reduces auto miles traveled and produces safer speeds. The study was prepared for APTA by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

According to recent data released by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT), there were 35,092 fatalities as a result of automobile accidents in 2015; an increase of 7.2% from 2014. The study authors emphasize that auto deaths and injury rates tend to decline in a community as public transit ridership increases. Cities that average more than 50 annual transit trips per capita have about half the average traffic fatality rates as cities where residents average fewer than 20 annual trips. Since Americans average about 1,350 annual trips on all modes, this increase from fewer than 20 to more than 50 annual transit trips represents a small increase in transit mode share, from about 1.5% up to about 4%. That equates to an increase in transit mode share of fewer than three trips a month per person.

“It is time we employed public transit as a traffic safety tool, because it can dramatically reduce the crash risk for individuals, as well as a community,” said APTA’s acting CEO and president, Richard White. “Although no mode of travel is risk free, the safety of public transit is striking when observing the number of fatalities that are a result of auto crashes. We must address expanding public transit with urgency, and ensure the reliability and safety of these systems. Nationwide, there is a US$86bn backlog of state-of-good-repair needs for the public transit systems. Addressing this backlog is directly tied to maintaining the safest public transit network possible. This study makes clear that public transportation investment and supportive policies continue to save lives and reduce injuries for travelers and our most vulnerable road users, as more shift from the automobile to public transit. The community-wide crash reductions, as a result of decreasing auto travel and safer speeds, multiply as areas become stronger transit-oriented communities.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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