Somewhere back in the peak of the pandemic, there was a popular Facebook post here in Olympia that I thought was interesting. The post pointed at the signs distributed by Intercity Transit asking people to slow down. The social poster asked why we didn't have signs asking for people to stop committing other crimes.
The idea was that anti-social behavior, visible homelessness and property crime were much bigger issues in Olympia than speeding and injuries to pedestrians because of speeding. Since then, I've been poking around for a way to compare like-for-like, to be able to compare the two sides of the argument, or just to get an idea of the scope of traffic related deaths in Thurston County.
So, I have been playing around with pedestrian death data from the federal Department of Transportation and come up with a few broad conclusions:
- How being killed by a driver compares to any other homicidal death
- When you're more likely to be killed by a car and
- (most interesting to me) where you're more likely to be killed by a car
A note on the data itself: most of this comes from the Fatality Analysis Reporting data from the USDOT. Other data I cobbled together from TRPC, the Thurston County Coroner's Office and WASPC. It is also worth noting that the FAR data I used only goes through 2020, but 2021 and 2022 saw record pedestrian deaths.
1. Pedestrian deaths and murders are in the same neighborhood
To get to the main premise of the now-lost social post itself, that we should pay closer attention to other crimes and not just pedestrians being killed by cars, I suppose the data carries that point. But when you consider the vast majority of murders (over 90 percent in 2017 for example) were committed by non-strangers, that puts deaths by pedestrians in traffic in another context.
2. September is the deadliest month
What is surprising here is that there aren't more deaths in downtown Olympia. State, Capital Way, Legion and Plum are all different sorts of thoroughfares. But, in terms of pedestrian density and the amount of traffic going through downtown, it could be easily assumed that there would be more here. Possibly, though, the infrastructure here is kinder to pedestrians, making it much more likely that drivers will be cued to notice them or drive slow enough to not kill them in the case of an accident.