Do Boston Drivers Live Up To Their Reputation? You Might Be Surprised
Living in the greater Boston area, we’re all used to the jokes about Boston drivers being aggressive, unyielding, and angry while changing lanes without signaling, passing people on the right while going 20 MPH above the speed limit, and all other manner of obnoxious driving techniques. And it certainly isn’t the case that the roads in Boston, seemingly illogically laid out and beaten down by feet upon feet of snow and ice each and every winter, help make the situation for car owners any better in the area. Fortunately, Boston is also a beautiful city to walk in (weather permitting), and has gotten rapidly more popular among cyclists who share the roads with cars both for commuting to work and for more leisurely rides. We’ve decided to take a look at the overall safety situation for transportation in Boston-on foot, by bike, and in the car.
Let’s start with taking a look at how Boston drivers fare safety-wise. Slate put out a cool report
in 2013 that pulled a bunch of different data sources, including CDC data, data from a major auto insurer, and more to evaluate US cities on statistics like the number of years between accidents for drivers, the number of automotive fatalities, alcohol-related accidents, and other key areas related to driving safety to find out what city is home to the worst drivers.
In the spreadsheet attached to the report, interestingly enough, Boston was ranked as the 32nd worst city for drivers, with some major metropolitan areas solidly beating out Beantown. Miami was #1, with nearly 8 times as many pedestrians hit as Boston over a 5 year period, and with one of the highest rates of automotive fatalities at 16.1 per 100,000 people. Our nearby professional sports rivals, New York City, beat out Boston as well, with a 25th place finish supported by a higher number of automotive fatalities involving alcohol, among other things.
So how did Boston drivers rank on safety? According to the data in the Slate report, Boston drivers average about 7 years between accidents, though if this number is adjusted for miles driven relative to the average, that shrinks down to under 5 years. Despite what seems like a fairly frequent rate of accidents, Boston drivers do fairly well on keeping fatalities from occurring during said accidents. According to the CDC
and the US Census Bureau, the Boston metropolitan area saw a rate (per 100,000 people) of 5.0 automobile crash related fatalities in 2009, compared to the national average of 11.1.
It looks like having narrow, congested, and (some might say) unintelligently designed roads has upsides and downsides for safety-a high rate of accidents, but a low rate of fatal accidents, perhaps in part due to drivers being stuck travelling at a snail’s pace. Our young folks seem to be doing alright here as well, with fatal accident rates among 15-24 year olds of 10/100,000 against a national average of 17.3/100,000.
Boston has become a pretty popular city for bicycle riders recently, with lots of people opting to get some fresh air and exercise on their way to work in the morning instead of sitting in traffic or negotiating the subway system. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of daily bike trips in Boston increased by nearly 20%, up to 56,600, according to the City’s 2013 Cyclist Safety Report
Between these years, Boston Police reported 9 bicyclist fatalities and 1,446 accidents, and Boston EMS reported 8 fatalities and 1,473 accidents (we aren’t sure who is responsible for the difference in fatalities, but whoever it is has some explaining to do). Despite the large increase in the number of daily rides, the increase in the number of cyclist accidents has increased at a lower rate, 2% according to BPD and 9% according to EMS. A disturbing number of EMS-reported bike incidents involve riders not wearing helmets-52%, with men wearing helmets in 43% of incidents and women wearing them in 60% of incidents. Unsurprisingly, the occurrence of cyclist accidents hits peak levels consistent with morning and evening rush hours, and noontime lunch hour.
Click below to see the map from the Boston Area Research Initiative at Harvard (BARI
), which maps the locations of cyclist accidents in Boston between 2009 and 2012, as reported by BPD. Unsurprisingly, many accidents occur on large roads like Mass Ave and around major intersections. Play around with the map (larger version here
) and see what kinds of insights you can find! We’d love to hear about them
For those who prefer to traverse the city on foot, the Boston Globe
pulled together data from 2013 that showed that Boston Police and EMS responded to between 750-790 pedestrian accidents in 2013 (the number depends on the source of the reports), and about a dozen pedestrians are killed while walking in the city each year. This is pretty remarkable considering that in Massachusetts as a whole, around 5,000 pedestrians died or were injured in collisions with cars during the 2010-2012 period.
Pedestrian advocacy groups claim that the old and narrow streets in Boston prevent drivers from going fast enough to kill pedestrians in most cases, which might explain why Boston is considered one of the most walking-friendly major cities. A 2014 report
funded by walking advocacy groups and the AARP actually placed the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metro area as the safest major metropolitan area for pedestrians, despite one of the highest rates of people commuting to work on foot. It appears that for many reasons, if you can walk somewhere in Boston, that may just be your best bet.
We hope you stay safe out on the roads, wherever you are and however you choose to get to where you are going. Safety should always be the number 1 priority. Please give us a call to discuss your current personal insurance coverage or to discuss how we can help you find the right coverage to keep you safe if you’re in a car, on a boat, at home, or anywhere else in the world.