Traffic fatality map: Chicago, we have a problem

Let’s be thankful that federal funding for safety programs like Safe Routes To School and bicycle and pedestrian enhancements haven’t been entirely cut and there are politicians who defend these programs (aside from Representative Earl Blumenauer from Oregon, I can’t name any others).

This map, first published by The Guardian, a British newspaper, shows a point for every traffic-related fatality in the United States between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2009. The map was created by ITO World, a transportation data company, using information from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Yes, that’s Chicago underneath all of those markers representing people who’ve died in traffic crashes. View traffic fatality map in fullscreen.

In 2010 in Chicago, there were 3,143 people walking, 1,643 people bicycling, 139,682 people driving, and 31,404 people in passenger seats, involved in 176,028 automobile crashes (see note below).

As you may recall, I created a map in February 2011 of just bike crashes for the years 2007-2009 in Chicago. I’m working on creating a new version of that map that also includes pedestrian crashes and intersection analysis for the years 2007-2010.

What are we supposed to learn from this map?

My comment on The Chainlink discussion:

I think one of the purposes of the map is just shock value: There are too many crashes. End of story. It’s the number one cause of death in America for youth 12-19 (35% of all deaths, 1999-2006).

For all of America, it’s in the top 15, killing more people than chronic liver disease or cirrhosis. (I did find some research that said the youth mortality rate in auto crashes is higher in Mountain and Southeastern states and lower in the New England and Middle Atlantic states.)

Around the world, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people 10-24. Traffic crash deaths are generally declining in Illinois and the United States, but I want it to decline faster.


Chart showing how the ages of pedestrians involved in traffic crashes skews young, to the 16-26 range. 

Note: Additionally, there were 0 people riding horses involved in automobile crashes, and 7 people occupying non-motorized vehicles, and 149 people in non-contact vehicles.) 21,848 people were injured. These numbers do not represent unique people: some people may have been involved in more than one crash. Oddly, there are 16 crashes with no people involved (no driver recorded; these may be property hit and runs) bringing the total number of recorded crashes to 176,044.

Updated November 26, 2011, to add my comment I left on The Chainlink discussion.

10 thoughts on “Traffic fatality map: Chicago, we have a problem”

  1. I didn’t tally up numbers when reviewing the Chicago portion of the map, but it appeared that a significant percentage of the cyclist fatalities were under 21, and most of the youth fatalities were under 15.   Among crash locations, highways and higher speed surface streets got the lion’s share.  Concentrations of pedestrian fatalities on surface streets were in locations where speeding is a consistent problem. 

      1. That was helpful, as was the 2nd graph.  Ages 5-25 did seem to be over-represented among the ped crashes.  I thought the suggestions of greater exposure and willingness to take risks were reasonable theories to explain that.

  2. Using the geo commons map and seeing purple circles there’s one bike crash in the middle of O’Hare airport. I’d like to know how that happens.

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