Why aren’t 102 Austin traffic fatalities generating outrage?

Quick update: Props to the Statesman, who was working on a piece when I wrote this.

There were 102 Austin traffic fatalities in 2015. Vision Zero ATX has a map of all of themPreviously, I asked how many people will need to die to get City Council’s attention. Perhaps we’ll see some movement in early 2016. But right now, it doesn’t seem like Austin sees 102 deaths as a serious problem we need to fix.

City Council isn’t to blame alone. The Austin American-Statesman staff chose their top stories of 2015, but 102 Austin traffic fatalities didn’t make it. Austin Chronicle also picked the top 10 local stories, but didn’t mention traffic deaths, either.

What does 102 people look like?

People sometimes have challenges trying to visualize an amount, or put numbers into context. Its easy to overestimate or underestimate even seemingly easy numbers like 100, so I attempted to put 102 into something that gives a better understanding.

102 people on a bus

102 Austin traffic fatalities in 2015 would fill this MetroRapid 801 busA MetroRapid 801 bus, one of those bendy buses, holds 101 passengers. How would it make you feel if we loaded up an 801 with 101 passengers, and told you that all those passengers, plus the driver, would be dead in one year? Pretty tragic, right?

102 people on a train

The Red Line trains have 108 seats. Think about the fact that the number of people who died on Austin’s roads in 2015 would almost fill up a Red Line train.

102 people in line for brisket

If you’ve ever eaten Franklin BBQ, you know how long the line gets. But just eyeballing this picture of the line, it’s about 100 people long. Enough people died on Austin’s streets in 2015 to make a line that long.

And lastly, AISD operates 129 schools across the city: 84 elementary schools, 18 middle schools and 16 high schools. Imagine the news coverage if the principal in every elementary school and middle school died in one calendar year.

Where is the outrage?

102 traffic deaths is far too many, growing city or not. Washington, DC had 26 traffic fatalities in 2015. New York had 242 deaths, down from 269 in 2014. New York also has 9x our population. San Jose, California is roughly the same population as Austin, and saw an increase in traffic fatalities of 35% over 2014, for a total of 59.

Austin likes to boast of standing up to injustice and protecting quality of life. Why aren’t 102 traffic fatalities in a single year generating outrage on par with Save Our Springs or fighting the Northcross Walmart? Are short-term rentals more threatening to Austin than people dying on the streets at a rate of 2 per week?

Feature image by Flickr user mirsasha (CC-BY-NC-ND)

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