This map displays 373,377 points, one for each person who died in a vehicle crash between 2004 and 2013. More information about each one will appear as you zoom the map in closer.
To locate your neighborhood, there is an address search bar in the upper right corner of the map.
Screenshots from the map: zoomed out (top) and zoomed in (bottom).
You may be thinking this map shows the same patterns you would see in a population density map. And you’d be right. But more details appear as you zoom in.
Each marker in the map corresponds to a fatal crash that occurred between 2004 and 2013.
- The shape of the icon relates to the individual who died in the crash: man, woman, child (age < 16), or multiple.
- The color identifies whether the person was a driver, a passenger, a pedestrian or a bicyclist.
- Optionally, the map allows you to highlight crashes by contributing factor: alcohol, speeding, or distracted driving (using the Dept of Transportation’s definition).
- To locate your neighborhood in the map, you can enter your address in the search bar.
Car crashes in New York City
In Manhattan, crashes seem to follow a few clear, not-so-surprising patterns. The interior of Manhattan seems to be more dangerous for pedestrians (yellow figures) and crashes are more likely to be caused by distracted driving (green circles).
The highways on either side of the island are more dangerous for drivers (red figures) and tend to have more alcohol-related crashes (white circles).
One section of the West Side Highway looks to be particularly dangerous, the string of white circles at the top center of the image. A look on Google Streetview shows this area to be a stretch where the highway is raised, with safety barriers on either side. And it makes sense. When someone loses control of the vehicle, there is no way of getting off the road.
Views from a few other parts of the country
58% of fatal crashes involve either alcohol, speeding, or a distracted driver
This stat comes directly from the Dept. of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). I can’t vouch for it’s accuracy, but in 58% of fatal crashes from 2004 to 2013, FARS lists at least one of these three factors as a contributing cause of the crash.
These are not the only factors tracked by FARS, but I thought they would be the most interesting to include in the map. Each of them contributes to a large number of crashes every year, and assuming these things are under the control of the driver, many of these crashes should be preventable.
Alcohol – 31% of crashes
Individually, alcohol was involved in about 31% of fatal crashes. Put another way, during these 10 years, drinking and driving was responsible for the loss of over 116,000 lives.
Regarding the other two factors, speeding and driving while distracted (such as while talking on the phone), before looking at the stats, I really had no idea. In hindsight, my guesses would have been way off for both.
Distracted driving – 18% of crashes
Despite some exaggerated claims about cell phone use being a leading cause of car crashes, the Dept of Transportation identified distracted driving as a contributing factor in 18% of fatal crashes. And in 86% of those crashes, the distraction was something other than a cell phone. Overall, the D.O.T. reports cell phone use as a contributing factor in only about 1% of fatal crashes. However, it is possible that this figure is being under-reported.
Speeding – 31% of crashes
As I discussed in detail in an earlier post, speeding may be far more dangerous than many people realize. If you believe the Dept of Transportation data, speeding played a role in 31.2% of fatal crashes, just as many as alcohol (technically, 0.6% more than alcohol)!
Many people dispute that speeding is dangerous, claiming that the real cause of speeding-related crashes is driver error. I don’t know whether or not that’s true, but people used to make the same claim about alcohol-impaired driving.
Until MADD began calling attention to the problem the early 80’s, the dangers of drinking and driving were overshadowed by “popular entertainment that featured films such as Animal House and Arthur.” Will people look back some day and say the same thing about the dangers of speeding and movies like The Fast and the Furious?
In case you’re wondering, Paul Walker died in November of 2013, so he’s in the map too. You can find his figure just north of Los Angeles.
— Drop The 'A' Word (@DroptheAword) October 31, 2015
- All of the information is from the FARS database. If you’d like to have a look at the raw data, it’s available on the Dept of Transportation website. You can also download my simplified version from the get the data page.
- To make the map, I used Mapbox Studio Classic.
- The search bar is via Mapzen Search, open source and powered by open data.
I'm fascinated by data visualization and the ways that data is transforming our understanding of the world. I spend a lot of time with my face buried in Excel, and when I find something interesting I write about it here and as a contributor for the Huffington Post.
More about my background