Friday, March 30, 2012

Where Would Seniors Choose to Live?

Best U.S. Cities for Seniors 2011 (15 page pdf, Bankers Life and Casualty CompanyCenter for a Secure Retirement, Sep. 2011)

Also discussed here: Best U.S. Cities For Seniors Not What You'd Expect, Says New Study (Eric Miller, Vox Civitatis: the New Colonist Webog, Dec. 20,2011)

The focus today is on a study which ranked 50 US cities in terms of quality of life for seniors who are rising to the top priority in many countries for several reasons, the most pertinent being sheer numbers- in 20 years, there will be more people over 60 than under 20 and they will make up double what they do now- and they all can vote and health care is uppermost in their minds, although the criteria used go well beyond health care. The chosen criteria, for people who live outside the US are perhaps the most significant aspect as the same ones probably could be applied to assess other cities with altered weighting. The quality of the air and its link to mortality seems to be an underlying, if not explicit, factor affecting several criteria. The top rated US city was Minneapolis and the lowest, Riverside California.

Key Quotes:

“the July 2011 study ranked 50 cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas on a universal set of criteria, from transportation and housing to healthcare and the environment:

Healthcare - availability of physicians specializing in geriatric issues—such as cardiology, oncology and orthopedic…hospitals per capita and their ratings based on patient reviews, the number of nursing homes per capita and their ratings, and the presence of continuing care retirement communities.

Economy - average consumer prices and sales tax to the local unemployment rate.

Health and Longevity - depression rates and mortality from cancer and heart disease in addition to life expectancy at birth and at age 85.

Social - seniors’ social and emotional well-being and satisfaction with life, along with data on the number of four-year colleges, libraries, restaurants and performing arts venues in the area.

Environment - number of sunny days per year, local air and water quality, presence and accessibility of bodies of water, and the number of local and state parks.

Spiritual Life -the number of religious congregations per capita and the percentage of the population with a religious affiliation.

Housing - median home price, property tax rates and rental

Transportation - accessibility of the city’s public transportation system.. percentage of commuters who use mass transit.

Crime - rates of property crimes and violent crimes.”

“1. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN .. high scores for life expectancy and healthcare.

2. Boston, MA .. An extensive public transportation system

3. Pittsburgh, PA .. robust economic development in the healthcare, technology and financial sectors.

49. Las Vegas, NV

Riverside-San Bernardino, CA
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vulnerability of Public to Heat Waves

Evaluation of a Heat Vulnerability Index on Abnormally Hot Days: an Environmental Public Health (29 page pdf, Colleen E. Reid, Jennifer K. Mann, Ruth Alfasso, Paul B. English, Galatea C. King, Rebecca A. Lincoln, Helene G. Margolis, Dan J. Rubado, Joseph E. Sabato, Nancy L. West, Brian Woods, Kathleen M. Navarro, John R. Balmes, Environ Health Perspect ., Jan.31, 2012)

Today we review some research that used of the national (US) Health Vulnerability Index to assess how the urban population reacts to heat stress, given that the number of hot spells each year is likely to double or triple over the next few decades, as a result of carbon fuel emissions and the forced climate change that they cause. The results indicate that the HVI is useful irrespective of heat stress to identify vulnerable parts of the population as well as to gauge in advance which parts are likely to increased heat stress in future.

Key Quotes:

Heat waves are projected to increase in frequency, severity, and duration in many parts of the world due to climate change”

“Maps that identify which populations and areas within a city are most vulnerable to heat can help local governments allocate resources to the areas in greatest need”

“We found stronger associations between HVI and cardiovascular mortality on non-extreme days than on extreme days”

“Over time, patterns of heat vulnerability are likely to change, for example, due to shifts in aging population distributions or changing patterns of underlying disease, necessitating periodic re-evaluation of vulnerability maps”

“HVI can be used to identify areas with increased risks of adverse health outcomes in general, and that it may identify areas at increased risk of heat-related illness and possibly other heat-related outcomes on abnormally hot days”

“Targeting resources towards decreasing inequities in vulnerability now may increase communities’ resilience to multiple hazards to health in the future”
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Health Threats to Canadian School Children Near Heavy Traffic

Proximity of public elementary schools to major roads in Canadian urban areas (33 page pdf, Ofer Amram, Rebecca Abernethy, Michael Brauer, Hugh Davies and Ryan W Allen, International Journal of Health Geographics, Dec. 21, 2011)

Also discussed here: School location a factor in student health, performance (Public Affairs, Simon Fraser University, Jan. 4, 2012)

And here: School location may impact kids' health (The Canadian Press, Jan 5, 2012)

Today, we focus on the proximity of schools are to major roads and why this constitutes a health risk to the school children. Nitrogen dioxide concentrations measured near schools drop off significantly within 75 m and up to 200 m from the roads. . The research reviewed indicates that in the 10 cities analysed (making up 1/3 of Canada’s population), 16 % of schools are within 75 m and 36% within 200 m of traffic. Provincial authorities in BC recommend keeping schools at least 150 m away from roads. Action may be taken with existing schools close to roads to reduce hazardous concentrations by as installing high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in ventilation systems and other measures.

Prince Philip Public Elementary School Nutana ...
Key Quotes:

Chronic exposure to traffic noise among children has been linked with increased blood pressure, reduced sleep quality, and cognitive deficits”

children 11-17 years spend an average of 12% of time of their time at school, making it the second most common microenvironment, while for children <11 years school is the 3rd most important microenvironment, accounting for 6% of time on average”

“Across all 10 cities, 16.3% of schools were located within 75 m of a major road.. Using a less conservative cut-off distance of 200 m, 36.1% of schools were located close to a major road, ranging between 11.7% of

“New schools could be set back from major traffic corridors, and it may also be beneficial to orient the school facilities such that the outdoor playgrounds are located as far as possible from major roads schools”

“the British Columbia Ministry of Environment recommends that schools and other sensitive facilities be placed at least 150 m from roads with over 15,000 vehicles/day”

“mitigate air pollution and noise impacts through improvements such as installing high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in ventilation systems, replacing window and door seals, constructing sound barriers, and installing double glazed windows”
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Real-time Urban Air Quality on a Smart Phone

New Air Quality iPhone Application (King’s College London, Mar. 30, 2010)

Also discussed here: London Air iPhone app (King’s College London, YouTube video)

And here: Winter smog mid January 2012 (King’s College London, Jan. 2012)

For the last two years, the city of London has been using smart phone technology to distribute up to the minute information about its air quality network which is one of the densest operational ones in the world. The video noted below describes how it works and has a link to download the iPhone app directly.

Key Quotes:

“The London Air iPhone app 2.0 displays the latest air pollution levels recorded at over 100 monitoring in the London Air Quality Network”
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Health Costs of Asthma caused by Traffic-Related Air Pollution

Costs of childhood asthma due to traffic-related pollution in two california communities (S. J. Brandt, L. Perez, N. Kunzli, F. Lurmann, R. McConnell. Abstract, European Respiratory Journal, Jan. 20, 2012)

Also discussed here: Asthma Rate and Costs from Traffic Pollution Higher: Much Higher Than Past Traditional Risk Assessments Have Indicated (Science Daily, Jan. 25, 2012)

The focus of today’s review is a research article from California which examines costs directly and indirectly related to traffic related pollution. The conclusion is that the costs are much higher than suggested by traditional studies and that this cost is borne more by urban communities that experience traffic more than those which do not.
Asthma Obstruction of the lumen of the bronchi...

Key Quotes:

“Total additional asthma-specific costs there due to traffic-related pollution is about $18 million per year, almost half of which is due to new asthma cases caused by pollution”

“a single episode of bronchitic symptoms cost an average $972 in Riverside and $915 in Long Beach”

“people who live in cities with high traffic-related air pollution bear a higher burden of these costs than those in less polluted areas”

“families with children who have asthma are bearing a high cost. The total annual estimate between $3,800 and $4,000 represents 7 percent of median household income….higher than the 5 percent considered to be a bearable or sustainable level of health care costs for a family”

“Traditional risk assessment methods for air pollution have underestimated both the overall burden of asthma and the cost of the disease associated with air pollution.. the cost has been substantially underestimated and steps must be taken to reduce the burden of traffic-related pollution”
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Climate Change, Air Pollution and Corrosion of Buildings

CorrosionCorrosion (Photo credit: LearningToSee)Climate change impact on building surfaces and facades (12 page pdf, Terje Grøntoft, International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 2011)

As more and more countries fail to meet the international agreements to reduce carbon emissions in a timely manner – either in terms of absolute emissions (China, USA and others) or per capita (Canada, Australia and others)- attention now needs to turn to adapting to climate change coming in the next few decades and especially to cities. The article under review today looks at an important aspect for Norwegian cities and their buildings – and how increased CO2 and other air pollutants would cause corrosion of building surfaces equivalent to 50% more air pollution- or to put it another way, the need to reduce air pollution by 50% in order to compensate for the expected impacts of climate change.

Atmospheric corrosion of Sagene Folkebad, public baths in Oslo, May 2007 (left) and after maintenance, September 2008 (right)
Key Quotes:
reports expected changes in corrosion costs due to climate change during this century as compared to the effect of air pollution”

“the average European dissolution rate of carbonate stone is likely to increase during this century, due to climate change. The reasons for this is the expected increase in precipitation in northern Europe, increase in temperature that can increase nitric acid concentrations in polluted air and can result in less snow as part of the total precipitation amount, and increased dissolution of the carbonate…due to increased CO2 concentration in the air”

“The main reasons for the increase in metal corrosion … is that increasing temperatures is expected to give increasing corrosion for annual average temperatures below 10C, where as increasing temperatures will give reduced corrosion when annual average temperatures are higher than 10C. The reason for this is that increasing temperature increases reaction rates when surfaces are wet, but that surfaces dry up at temperatures higher than 10C”

“The other air pollutants were observed to have a corrosion effect of a similar magnitude as that for the low concentration of SO2. Important corrosion effects that could now be observed were those of the small amount of nitric acid (HNO3) formed from reaction between nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) and the effects of particulate matter (PM) pollution”

“An annual average temperature increase of 28C and increase in precipitation of 20 per cent…is likely to increase maintenance costs of building facades as much or more than a 50 per cent reduction in the concentrations of single air pollutants, and similarly to between 20 per cent and 50 per cent reduction in all the air pollutants, minus chloride, that have been found to corrode the materials…. An increase in costs up to about 1 Euro/m2 10 years can be expected”

“It is a big challenge today to reduce air pollution in urban areas and it would be difficult to compensate for the effect of climate change on corrosion by decreasing the emissions of air pollutants. In rural areas with less air pollution there is, obviously, less option for reduction of air pollution”
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Sustainable Transportation and Mobility for Seniors

Great Ideas for Senior-Friendly Communities (US News, Jan. 12, 2012)

Also discussed here: Age friendliness -- sounds good, where is it? (Laurie Orlov , Aging in Place Technology, Jan. 14, 2012)

And here: Aging in Place:A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices (84 page pdf, Nicholas Farber, JD, and Douglas Shinkle, National Conference of State Legislatures and the AARP Public Policy Institute, Dec. 2011)

And here: Forget the Sunbelt: Colder Areas Top New List of Best Cities for Seniors (US News, Sep. 29, 2011)

The fastest growing part of our population and for many cities the most vulnerable are our seniors- and many cities are not taking steps to ensure they are both safe and healthy and have access to municipal transportation systems. Today’s review of several articles on this topic points out some of the transportation challenges and solutions without getting into social housing and land use policies which also have large impacts on quality of life for seniors.

Key Quotes:

“In the next 20 years, the number of adults age 65 and older will nearly double in the United States. Many of these people will reject high-priced institutional care and, instead, will continue to live in the community, even if they have one or more disabilities. The degree to which they can participate in community life will be determined, in part, by how well their physical environment accommodates them and the level of services provided”

“Scattered, low-density development coupled with disconnected road networks increase auto dependency and the mobility challenges faced by nondrivers”

"Of Americans over age 65, 21 percent do not drive..This reduced mobility has a direct and often debilitating effect on older Americans' independence. More than 50 percent of non-drivers over age 65 normally do not leave home most days, partly because of a lack of transportation options."

“Although adults age 65 and older comprised less than 13 percent of the population in 2008, they were involved in 15 percent of vehicle fatalities and 19 percent of pedestrian fatalities. An older vehicle occupant is 18 percent more likely to die in a crash than someone under age 65. A more staggering statistic reveals that an older pedestrian is 61 percent more likely to die when hit by a motor vehicle than a younger one”

“why are so many 'aging in place? Because they can’t sell their houses -- and when they do, it is later and later – the average move-in age for assisted living is 86, the average price for assisted living is > $39K per year”
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Monitoring Air Pollution in Beijing, China

Beijing to put clean-air plan into action (He Dan, China Daily, Jan. 13, 2012)

Also discussed here: Beijing releases key air pollution data (USA Today, Jan. 21, 2012)

And here: Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center (in Chinese)

And here: Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center (in English)

Today, the focus is on efforts by the municipal government in Beijing to both monitor and reduce local pollution sources, among which vehicle emissions are a major contributor like many other urban areas. Beijing is a large city both in terms of population (19,612,368 in 2010) and area (16,801 km2) so that the 24 monitors to monitor PM10 and PM2.5 in future are about the same ratio one sees in Canada and the USA. Even this is far from the monitor density needed to adequately estimate roadside emissions as, for example, in the UK where over 200 local authorities have declared over 500 Air Quality Management Areas(AQMA). Also noteworthy is the pledge to make public hourly air pollution in real time- another indication of the seriousness taken of air pollution by governmental officials.

Key Quotes:

“The municipal government will allocate 2.1 billion yuan ($332.4 million) to tackle air pollution and other work related to energy conservation and emissions reduction”

“When severe smog grounded more than 100 flights on Tuesday, the highest density of inhalable particles in the southern and central city was between 300 and 560 micrograms a cubic meter, while the figure in the north was between 30 and 80”

"Whenever you walk on the streets in Beijing, you can see cars emitting dark gas and a strong smell. Cars are responsible for about 50 percent of the harmful particles in the air,"

“Beijing will set up more than two dozen monitoring stations to detect the density of PM 2.5 before Spring Festival, which falls on Jan 23. That will be ahead of the national schedule of 2016”

“The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center will publish readings for the levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and PM 10 - particulate matter smaller than 10 micrograms - detected by its 27 air quality monitoring stations.”

“The center’s staff will post air-quality data 24 hours a day on its official website,, based on results from 27 monitoring stations in the city..The data will mainly cover the density of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and PM10 (particulate matter under 10 macrometers in size) in the air”

“Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center participated in the project of Capability Building of Olympic Environmental Monitoring cooperated by Beijing Municipality and the Italian Ministry for the Environment and Territory.…was founded in 1974, it is the first professional environmental monitoring institution in China”
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Road Pricing in the USA

Road Pricing Can Help Reduce Congestion, but Equity Concerns May Grow (60 page pdf, United States Government Accountability Office, Jan 12, 2012

Also discussed here: Traffic Congestion- Road Pricing Can Help Reduce Congestion, but Equity Concerns May Grow
(GAO-12-119, Jan 12, 2012)
And here: GAO Highlights (United States Government Accountability Office, Jan. 2012)

Today, the focus is on a report by the GAO of the US government which reviewed the progress of 400 miles of tolled roads in 14 road pricing projects in that country which included HOT lanes (virtually all are on roads funded federally) and peak-period or congestion pricing. Results were mixed and no recommendations were made given that “Congestion pricing in the United States is in its relative infancy”. Concerns were expressed about potential equity issues in future – in terms of impact on low income drivers and geography in terms of areas impacted by tolling.

Key Quotes:

“we examined
  1. the federal role in supporting congestion pricing,
  2. results of congestion pricing projects in the United States, and
  3. emerging issues in congestion pricing projects”
“Environmental Analysis
  • Reduction in criteria pollutants
  • Reduction in noise
  • Reduction in vehicle miles traveled
  • Qualitative assessment of perceived benefits of the environment
  • Reductions in estimated fuel use
  • Use and impact of alternative fuel vehicles for transit improvements”
HOT lane projects..have reduced congestion, but some HOT lane projects also added new lanes … although the number of cars using HOT lanes has risen, there were fewer people in those cars because of an increase in the proportion of toll-paying solo drivers or a decrease in carpools”

“Peak-period pricing projects, which aim to reduce congestion by encouraging drivers to travel at off-peak times, have shifted some travel to those times”

“Potential concerns include income equity (whether low-income drivers are disproportionately affected by congestion pricing) and geographic equity (whether one geographic area is more negatively affected than another, such as when traffic diversion occurs)”

“traffic congestion costs the United States $200 billion each year, and that more than one-quarter of total annual travel time in metropolitan areas occurs in congested conditions”

“Although traffic congestion has declined recently in many metropolitan areas, future demand for travel during peak times is expected to increase as the population grows and the economy recovers“

“With about 400 miles of priced lanes in operation, which includes 150 miles of the New Jersey Turnpike, pricing has not been implemented beyond a limited number of locations. However, its popularity is growing”
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Heat Waves and Mortality in Korean Cities

The Impact of Heat Waves on Mortality in 7 Major Cities in Korea (34 page pdf, Ji-Young Son, Jong-Tae Lee, G. Brooke Anderson, Michelle L. Bell, Environ Health Perspect, Jan. 20, 2012)

Today we review an analysis of the health impact of heat waves in Korea, the characteristics of these events and the most vulnerable people within the population. Results indicate a greater mortality during the first heat waves in the season and the greatest impact on the elderly.

Key Quotes:

“we estimated the effects of heat waves on mortality in 7 major cities in Korea during 2000-2007 and evaluated effect modification by heat wave characteristics (intensity, duration, and timing in season)”

“we defined a heat wave as ≥2 consecutive days with daily mean temperature at or above the 98th percentile warm season daily mean temperature (for 2000-2007) for each city”

“the average number of heat waves in the study period was generally similar among cities, ranging from 0.6 to 1.1 per year. Average heat wave intensity (i.e., the average daily mean temperature during heat waves) ranged from 29.0°C in Incheon to 30.7°C in Daegu. Most heat waves lasted 2 or 3 days in all cities, and no heat wave lasted more than 5 days”

“heat waves earlier in the summer were associated with higher mortality than later heat waves"

“the elderly were more susceptible to heat waves. This may reflect factors such as impaired physiological responses to heat stress (e.g., elevated sweating thresholds, decreased skin blood flow, reduced cardiac output) and pre-existing chronic diseases for the elderly”

“Overall, total mortality increased 4.1% ..during heat waves compared to non-heat wave days, with an 8.4% increase ..estimated for Seoul
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hamilton’s Air Pollution Hot Spots

Mobile Air Quality Monitoring to Determine Local Impacts (39 page pdf, Denis Corr, Rotek Environmental Inc. July 2011)

Also discussed here: Unique study maps neighbourhood air pollution (Hamilton Spectator, Jan. 20, 2012)

And here: A Public Health Assessment of Mortality and Hospital Admissions Attributable to Air Pollution in Hamilton (3 page pdf, School of Geography and Geology and McMaster Institute of Environment and Health, 2011)

From the city of Hamilton, a leader among Canadian cities in the assessment of urban health, comes a report on a local neighbourhood air quality monitoring study. Results indicate almost 12% increased mortality risk as an average across the city for all pollutants, with the highest increased risk (+18%) near the 6 lane highway (403) that bisects the city. The breakdown of risk by pollutant may also be used to identify and reduce pollution sources.

Key Quotes:

“Mobile air monitoring techniques were used to evaluate levels of Carbon Monoxide (CO), Oxides of Nitrogen (NOX), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Inhalable Particulate (particulate matter less than 10 microns aerodynamic diameter, PM10) and Respirable Particulate (particulate matter less than 2.5 microns aerodynamic diameter, PM2.5)”

“Of the 11 neighbourhoods monitored, all showed some air pollution impacts, ranging from 6.8% to 18.4% increased mortality, with an overall average of 11.5% increased mortality due to air pollution. The majority of impacts were due to particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen”

“Air quality consultant Denis Corr used a mobile emissions tester to take “pollution snapshots” of 11 neighbourhoods in the city.. “This really is a snapshot of risk..But there is no question people in Hamilton and Ontario are dying (prematurely) due to air pollution”

“People still tend to think about air pollution as primarily a problem associated with industry (emissions). Very few people think about their own car,” (Dr. Chris Mackie, associate medical officer of health for Hamilton)

“The study also showed that the worst place to breathe in Hamilton, by far, is near Highway 403.. highway exposures are far above any neighbourhood mortality values”
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Monday, March 5, 2012

Making Public Transit Attractive

What’s the Best Way To Get Users To Embrace Mass Transit? Make it pleasant? Or make it efficient? (Tom Vanderbilt, Slate, Jan. 19, 2012)

Also discussed here: Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives (Jarrett Walker, Amazon)

Today, the focus is on a new book, “Human Transit” by Jarrett Walker which was reviewed by a leading transportation guru, Tom Vanderbilt, who sees transit in cities as either “System” or “Empathy” and delightfully gives examples of each perspective.

Key Quotes:

“how to manage and design cities… “system” implied things like infrastructure and institutions, while” empathy” implied the cultural texture of a place”

“ride experience” is crucial for getting Americans out of their cars and into public transit.”

“San Francisco’s cable cars: Walker (“system”) thinks they’re neither efficient nor cost-effective (each car requires two employees) nor very important to getting San Franciscans around; Nordahl (“empathy”) argues they’re a vital public space, an experience in themselves, part of what makes the city the city”

“In most debates about proposed rapid transit lines..the speed of the proposed service gets more political attention than how frequently it runs, even though frequency, which determines waiting time, often matters more than speed in determining how long your trip will take.”

“The prevailing habit of most transit systems is to advertise where they go but to treat when as though it were a detail.”

“Technology choices do matter..the fundamental geometry of transit is exactly the same for buses, trains and ferries.”

“if transit is to become an attractive alternative to the automobile, the ride itself must offer an experience to passengers that they cannot get within the solitude of their cars”
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Friday, March 2, 2012

Is Traffic Congestion the Main Cause of Car Accidents?

Go Figure: Are country roads more dangerous than city roads? (Michael Blastland, BBC News magazine, Jan. 19, 2012)

Also discussed here: Roads vs. Streets: Wherein the greater danger? (World Streets, Jan. 19, 2012)

A near fatal accident close to my home recently triggered the review of today’s post which examines the links between traffic accidents and health consequences in and around London UK. While more traffic volume and congestion seems to be related to more accidents, it is not as much more as one would expect . Also, it seems that non fatal accidents (involving only property damage) are greater with less traffic, more fatal accidents occur with more traffic where speed may also be a factor. One conclusion is that traffic characteristics need to be considered when designing safer roads and intersections.

Key Quotes:

“The police usually record contributory causes of an accident but they don’t include congestion or traffic density…During the 12 years to 2011, the police recorded more than three million road casualties in Great Britain. More than 36,000 people lost their lives and another 373,985 were seriously injured”

“Instinct tells us that more cars equal more hazards. When roads are full, people jump the lights; when it's a scrap for the gaps, margins of safety fall; when the going's slow, half the faces at the wheel are in a map, mobile phone or crisp bag, or nodding off”

“dense traffic does cause more accidents….Probably a higher traffic density leads to a shift towards less severe injuries”

“Is heavy traffic really protective in London, maybe because it slows us down? Is lighter traffic more dangerous in Northumberland, maybe because we’re less careful?”

“Incidence rates involving property damage-only crashes and injury-crashes are highest when traffic is lightest.”
Related articles

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Intensification, Traffic Congestion and Air Pollution (
Hire The Experts To Investigate Road Traffic Accidents (
Decrypting traffic snarls (
Does Canada's Largest City Want Congestion Charges? (

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