Sunday, February 20, 2011

Traffic as a Public Health Threat

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year...
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Why Isn’t Traffic Reduction a Top Public Health Concern? (StreetsBlog Network, July 29, 2010)

Also discussed here: Traffic reduction: An urgent public health priority (Greater Greater shington, July 27, 2010)

And here: The Road…Less Traveled: An Analysis of Vehicle Miles Traveled Trends in the U.S. (40 page pdf, Brookings, Dec. 2008)
And here: World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention (20 page pdf, World Health Organization, 2004)

The articles reviewed today focus on the impact of traffic on public health outside of the link between vehicle emissions and air pollution-health impacts. While recognizing the reduction in per capita driving, traffic deaths continue to increase. This leads to the observation that vehicles are becoming heavier and driven faster which contribute to greater risk to pedestrians (particularly children) and cyclists as well as other drivers. The alternative- driving more slowly with lighter less consumptive vehicles-  would also address the emissions side of the equation.

Key Quotes:
“Traffic is the leading cause of death among children worldwide and the leading cause of death among 1-34 year olds in the United States”
“Driving, as measured by national VMT, began to plateau as far back as 2004 and dropped in 2007 for the first time since 1980.  Per capita driving followed a similar pattern, with flat-lining growth after 2000 and falling rates since 2005”

“the myth to perpetuate that moving to the suburbs is safer than living in the city…low VMT per child made NYC a much safer place for children than the rest of the country”

“policy discussions of the risk posed by traffic should prioritize measures to reduce driving and encourage travel by other means, but..public health authorities tend not to attack the problem that way:.. The CDC, NIH and other agencies focus on traffic safety as the preventable cause of death, not traffic itself. WHO's recommendations for addressing traffic fatalities are "speed, alcohol, seat-belts and child restraints, helmets, and visibility"
“problem with the focus on "safety" instead of "traffic" is that it rewards bigger cars and beefier structures. This is great for occupants but is not so good for pedestrians, cyclists, and those in smaller cars because the drivers feel comfortable taking more risks, and because the cars impart more energy upon collision”
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