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Old 05-12-02, 02:33 PM   #1
ViciousCycle
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Burbs more dangerous than the city, due to traffic fatalities

http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/...-danger12.html

City safer than the 'burbs?

May 12, 2002

BY CHRIS FUSCO STAFF REPORTER

Julieanna Lauer viewed herself as a "regular suburbanite"--the mom of a softball-playing 12-year-old who lived in a nice house in a safe, quiet neighborhood.

"It was very rural-like. Pretty," she said of her three-bedroom ranch in northeast Will County.

So when her daughter went to a nearby friend's house for a sleepover in May 1996, Lauer thought she had no reason to worry.

She was wrong.

Courtney Lauer sneaked out with some other girls to meet a boy late at night. They were walking down a narrow, wooded road in Crete Township when a Chevrolet Blazer plowed through, killing Courtney and her friends Sheena Acres, 12, and Cari Sanaghan, 11.

"You think that it couldn't happen here," Julieanna Lauer said. "It could, and did."

And it happens more than you might think, a new study concludes.

Traffic fatalities are so common in the far suburbs that, even if you add in murders by strangers, people who live there run an equal or greater risk of being killed than people who live in or near big cities, said William H. Lucy, an urban and environmental-planning professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

His analysis of eight metropolitan areas, titled "Danger in Exurbia," attempts to debunk the conventional wisdom that cities are dangerous while more rural--and usually growing--suburbs are safe.

In reality, inner suburbs in DuPage and Cook counties are the safest, he concludes, with Chicago ranking not that far behind. But people are being drawn to the outer suburbs, lured by affordable housing, new construction and open space.

McHenry and Will counties each grew by more than 40 percent between 1990 and 2000. By contrast, suburban Cook grew by about 7 percent.

"Lots of people have been leaving the inner suburbs and moving farther out," Lucy said. "To the extent people are making decisions based on safety, they're really making a miscalculation."

At least one outer-suburban leader finds that preposterous.

"When there's someone from Chicago that moves to Morris, this is heaven," said Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick, whose city of 12,000 is the Grundy County seat. Kopczick was appalled to learn that Grundy County was ranked the most dangerous place in northeastern Illinois and fifth most dangerous of 69 counties and cities.

"I go to bed at night with my doors unlocked," he said. "How many people in the city of Chicago can say that?"

"You're going to label a community more or less dangerous based on a traffic accident?" asked McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren, whose county had a danger rate just slightly behind Chicago's. "What about sexual assault, armed robbery, battery, auto theft, burglary?"

Lucy has heard that argument before. His analysis, he says, measures danger not in terms of the potential for people to be victims of a crime, but strictly in terms of the potential that they will be killed because of where they choose to make their home.

To calculate danger rates, the study used traffic fatality numbers plus statistics on "homicides by strangers." The latter, Lucy said, is the fairest way to measure a person's chances of being murdered because it eliminates cases where the killer is acquainted with the victim.

"If you're going to be killed by your spouse, where you live is not going to make much of a difference," he said.

Lucy and an assistant counted the number of murders by strangers and traffic crashes in each county and city in the study between Jan. 1, 1997, and Dec. 31, 2000. They averaged the totals and used the 2000 census to generate death rates per 10,000 people.

Chicago, based on the study's calculations, had 0.5 random murders per 10,000 people and 0.9 traffic deaths, for a danger rate of 1.4. Grundy, Kendall and DeKalb counties had virtually no random murders, but all of them had higher danger rates than Chicago because of traffic crashes.

The less populated the suburban area, the greater the risk of death, Lucy said.

"Low-density counties are the most dangerous, and that's mostly because speed kills," he said. "People are going farther and faster on more dangerous roads. There are more accidents in the city, but they are fender benders. Both pedestrians and vehicle occupants die at high speeds."

Melissa Bakel, 29, isn't surprised by the study's findings. She grew up in Kendall County and lived in Chicago's Lake View neighborhood between 1995 and 1999. She then moved back to her hometown of Yorkville after getting engaged. She still lives there with her husband, Damen, 29, and son Brayton, 19 months.

When she lived in the city, Bakel taught at Irving Elementary School on the Near West Side. Some days, she took the bus and train. Other days, she drove.

Rarely did she feel unsafe.

The perception by some people that the city is more dangerous is "a misconception," Bakel said. "Being aware of your surroundings and having a good head on your shoulders" is what's most important.

"There's a much better chance of something severely happening to you in a traffic accident than living in the city," she said. "Of course, it's going to depend on the area you live in."

In Morris, Kopczick said he thinks Grundy County's smaller population skewed the results of the University of Virginia study. He's hard pressed to believe that a county of just 37,500 people is more than twice as dangerous--even on a per capita basis--as Chicago. "I would much rather live here," he said.

It's possible Kopczick is right, but a year-by-year look at the data would be needed to prove his theory, said Tom Smith, of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. He noted other possible flaws: People don't always die in the counties where they make their homes, and the presence of interstate highways--traveled by motorists from all over--could be inflating traffic fatality rates.

Chicago police declined a request to comment.

Nygren, the McHenry County sheriff, said the study fails to accurately measure danger. Still, it makes a few good points.

"He's correct about the automobile safety," Nygren said. "Rural does not equal safe. Rural can equal very dangerous if you drive inattentively."

Julieanna Lauer knows that all too well. The man who hit her daughter and drove away was arrested and sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison. He was released in about a year.

People moving out to new subdivisions shouldn't assume they and their families will be safe, said Lauer, 36, who now lives in Tinley Park with her three children. At the same time, she doesn't know if there's much that families can do to stop tragedies like the one that took her daughter.

"We were all good parents, and they were all good kids," she said. "I had Courtney immunized against everything available. We did fire drills.... I told her, 'Don't walk on the street at night.'

"You do everything you can, and it still happens."
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Old 05-12-02, 09:01 PM   #2
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Vicious Cycle,

People who have moved from the city to escape violent crime have exposed themselves to a higher risk of death due to traffic accidents. When the news is aired, you hear about murders, rapes, and other scary things, but traffic accidents are reported like this:

"Good morning! On the downtown connector, traffic is moving a bit sluggish due to an accident with fatalities. Northbound traffic on I-75/85 is proceeding normally, expected travel time from I-285 about 7 minutes..."

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Old 05-13-02, 07:54 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by ViciousCycle
http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/...-danger12.html

...

Julieanna Lauer knows that all too well. The man who hit her daughter and drove away was arrested and sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison. He was released in about a year.

... At the same time, she doesn't know if there's much that families can do to stop tragedies like the one that took her daughter.

...

"You do everything you can, and it still happens."
2.5 years in prison is obviously not a sufficient deterrent for vehicular murder. (Yes, accidents happen, but hit-and-run should be treated as something much more serious.) We need much stricter accountability for motorists. Why does this motorist not face lifetime revocation of his driver's license, lifetime restitution payments to the victim's family, etc.?


We also need to recognize and to establish a fundamental right to safe and convenient mobility for all road users, even if this means (God forbid!) lowering some speed limits. I live in an older, inner suburb with 25mph/40kph residential streets and have no desire to move anywhere.
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Old 05-13-02, 11:13 AM   #4
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It's that old "poetic driving" thing; hicks in the sticks drive with their dicks.
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Old 05-14-02, 08:28 AM   #5
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Feldman's "hicks from the sticks" reminds me of the way my grandmother's brother beat a traffic ticket when visiting Los Angeles in the 1960s.

Officer: "Don't you know you are supposed to pull over when you hear a siren?"

John R: "Well golly shucks, Officer. I live in Newcastle CO, population 400, and we don't have sih-reeens."
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Old 05-15-02, 10:44 PM   #6
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Acquaintance homicide is a broader category than one may think, and it shouldn't be excluded altogether from danger calculations. It is homicide in which the victim was known to the killer in any way prior to the crime.

The vast majority of "acquaintance" homicides aren't domestic homicides or homicides between friends. They are homicides among criminals, drug dealers and their customers or nearby residents, prostitutes and their pimps, and even a fair number of robbers and their victims. For example, per FBI reporting standards a criminal who enters a cab, rides it across town, and then murders the driver has committed an acquaintance homicide.

So one has a significantly greater chance of becoming a victim of an acquaintance homicide in an urban area even if he doesn't associate with criminals or have violent friends or relations. The drug dealer on the corner, a violent gang member known to you prior to an attack, etc., are strictly urban creatures.

Nonetheless, the study might still be correct about overall danger. The important point isn't the comparison to violent crime, however. It is the extent to which people die preventably on roadways. _That_ is a staggering amount, whether or not it's worse than crime.

It is also surely true that death by traffic accident is not random-- just as in cycling one can exercise a significant degree of control over one's risks on the road. The belief most people have, true or not, that _they_ are safer than average drivers likely would cause them to discount traffic dangers in their suburbs.
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Old 05-16-02, 06:59 PM   #7
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I think the main danger is the amount of time people in the suburbs have to spend on the road. The further out you move, the more time you spend on the road. Like sunburn, the longer you stay out, the more the chance of a burn.

Then again, I believe that some folks are high-risk drivers for the opposite reason: they don't have enough experience on the road.
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Old 05-16-02, 07:14 PM   #8
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Well here in Toronto, according to some of the police officer in New York city this one is for the book we are in the City of La La La Land, so basically the Toronto police here only deals with youth gangs and juvenile crimes, that's why I use to call them Junior Police they deal only with those kind of crimes, but when it comes organized crimes there ball are in there throat then they call the ETF or the RCMP
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Old 10-15-06, 01:19 PM   #9
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A little Late...

I know this thread is long buried, but it strikes me close to home. I grew up with two of the girls that were killed in this accident. I remember what the media said during it's coverage. It was reported briefly that Richard Devon (The driver of the blazer) was a frequent bar patron. It was also rumored that witnesses saw him at the bar drinking that very night of memorial day 10 years ago. It was never prooven because he was in hiding for a few days (maybe a week), so there was no way to test him for alcohol on that date.

It's said that he was so shook up by the accident he had to visit a psychiatrist, and his sister was 'helping' him through his tough time. I can imagine how heartwrenching it would be for him, but you know what... It's too much to even contemplate what the parents were going through... Or...what Cari's twin sister was going through while she was bleeding on the side of the road as her sister and her best friends died.

What's worse is that Courtney's boyfriend was there too... He ... Ran... Because he had marijuana on him. He was scared he would go to jail, and he didn't know what to do. I think he was 13 or 14 at the time.

At that age... You just can't comprehend the death of a friend ...

All I can hope is that they rest eternally in comfort.

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Old 10-15-06, 02:30 PM   #10
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The title of this thread made me want to post...
I recently did a recumbent photo shoot in San Francisco. I admit, I don't usually cycle in city traffic, and was a bit apprehensive. I would be riding a Dutch quasi low racer that is petty tricky to handle, so the thought of dicing through downtown S.F. traffic made me check my insurance policies.
Amazingly, I found the traffic to be very accomodating to my presence. Maybe the photographer on the motorscooter made me forget that I was in dense city traffic. But all the drivers seemed to take my presence in stride. They didn't honk, or cut me off or any other untoward behavior. I must admit that the experience made me feel a lot more comfortable than I thought I'd be.
I guess SF drivers are just used to all the mayhem of city driving. It was a great experience and I thank the SF drivers for allaying my fears of city riding.
And thanks Mike & Co., hope you got a picture to use.

As for rural riding, there seem to be extremes. Either overly careful and friendly OR...
Blazing idiots passing at speed within inches of me, and tossing freshly emptied beer cans out the window.
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Old 10-15-06, 02:37 PM   #11
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Bad drivers are everywhere.

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Old 10-15-06, 07:04 PM   #12
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1) No sidewalk/street lights.
2) People in rural areas are often in more of a rush than urban, and they have the empty roads to go fast.
3) People in rural areas have more horsepower, and often older vehicles.
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Old 10-16-06, 03:04 AM   #13
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“other possible flaws: People don't always die in the counties where they make their homes, and the presence of interstate highways--traveled by motorists from all over--could be inflating traffic fatality rates.”

My thoughts exactly.

“William H. Lucy, an urban and environmental-planning professor

I am sure he has no bias against suburbs and would not conduct his study in a manner to get the results he wants!
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Old 10-16-06, 03:11 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baltarin
It's said that he was so shook up by the accident he had to visit a psychiatrist, and his sister was 'helping' him through his tough time. I can imagine how heartwrenching it would be for him, but you know what... It's too much to even contemplate what the parents were going through... Or...what Cari's twin sister was going through while she was bleeding on the side of the road as her sister and her best friends died. ...
Kyle
Seriously, how bad could he have felt, considering how he was so callous as to leave teenagers bleeding to death on the side of the road. These people never consider others; only themselves, but they do put on a good act of remorse when they think it will help them.
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Old 10-16-06, 03:25 PM   #15
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Given the nature of inattentional blindness, I'm not surprised that fatalities are more likely in the burbs.
It all about expectations.
Various kinds of interruptions to traffic flow are much rarer in the burbs than in the cities, and, therefore, are less likely to be expected in the burbs, and so, are more prone to inattentional blindness.
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Old 10-16-06, 04:23 PM   #16
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One of the things to consider is that in rural areas, it is dark and a lot of people dont wear bright clothing. In the city, you have a lot of street lights and other lighting from various buildings, but in the burbs, you have a ton of dark roads. I can't count the number of times I have passed people on the side of the road dressed in dark clothing. I only saw them when I got really close and if I was innatentive, I could likely have killed someone. Being a cyclist now, I am more aware of making myself visible at night and during the day, but most people dont think about that. Personally, I would rather live in the suburbs and use bright cloths and lights to keep from getting run over, than live in the city.
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Old 10-16-06, 06:04 PM   #17
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I will agree with the basics of the study. I live in what used to be a rural area, narrow 2 lane roads, no shoulders, and the occasional tractor tooling down the road. In the past 8 years is has become suburbia there is a caution light about a mile from the house. There used to be an accident there about every other month 8 years ago, now it is more like once a week. I used to be able to pull out of our road without looking (well I could have if I wanted to) now I usually have to wait for 15-20 cars to go by first. Many of the people are driving at well over the posted speed limit of 45 mph. Another thing that may come into play is the lack of available law enforcement in a given area. Typically a suburban area that is non incorporated will be patrolled by a county enforcement agency, with fewer deputies per capita than an urban area police force. Because of this more speeding can and will occur, along with the other related issues of minimal police coverage.

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Old 10-16-06, 09:49 PM   #18
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My friend's dad showed me a list of 12 burgleries that had been committed in his neighborhood during the last three months. He lives in the nice suburbs of Southeast Huntsville. People feeling safe in suburbs and gated communities is the biggest bull**** ever created.
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Old 10-16-06, 10:38 PM   #19
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I remember hearing that drug problems are much worse in surburbia than the inner city.
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Old 10-17-06, 02:09 AM   #20
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I remember hearing that drug problems are much worse in surburbia than the inner city.
I remember hearing how in the city, people will watch from their high rise windows as you are mugged and mudered; not even calling 911!
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Old 10-17-06, 09:08 AM   #21
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My friend's dad showed me a list of 12 burgleries that had been committed in his neighborhood during the last three months. He lives in the nice suburbs of Southeast Huntsville. People feeling safe in suburbs and gated communities is the biggest bull**** ever created.
Call me crazy, but I'd still rather live in Somers, CT rather than East Hartford.
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Old 10-18-06, 08:02 PM   #22
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There are way too many factors to allow us to find the definitive conclusion, but I will add one more hypothesis to the lot: tiredness.

People who live in the suburbs and work in town work their 8-9 hours per day (lunch time included) and commute 2-3 hours per day. If the commute is done driving , it becomes the equivalent of a 10-12-hour work day. It means more tired people.
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Old 10-18-06, 08:09 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CB HI
I remember hearing how in the city, people will watch from their high rise windows as you are mugged and mudered; not even calling 911!
That's an "urban" myth. City people watch out for each other just like suburbanites and rural people, and in the city you have more neighbours to rely on.
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Old 10-18-06, 08:17 PM   #24
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Lots of high speed chunks of metal = major carnage

40 000 dead people per year in the US can't be wrong.

When driving in downtown TO, (I have done it from time to time), I rarely reach 50 km/h. 20-30 km/h is more typical (about the same speed as a bike). Lower speeds = lower fatalities.

If you look at the peds and cyclists killed in Toronto, they tend to die in the suburbs too - roads are wide, speeds are high, cars aren't looking for em. This is despite the fact that there are a lot more peds and cyclists downtown.
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Old 10-19-06, 05:00 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wahoonc
I will agree with the basics of the study. I live in what used to be a rural area, narrow 2 lane roads, no shoulders, and the occasional tractor tooling down the road. In the past 8 years is has become suburbia there is a caution light about a mile from the house. There used to be an accident there about every other month 8 years ago, now it is more like once a week. I used to be able to pull out of our road without looking (well I could have if I wanted to) now I usually have to wait for 15-20 cars to go by first. Many of the people are driving at well over the posted speed limit of 45 mph. Another thing that may come into play is the lack of available law enforcement in a given area. Typically a suburban area that is non incorporated will be patrolled by a county enforcement agency, with fewer deputies per capita than an urban area police force. Because of this more speeding can and will occur, along with the other related issues of minimal police coverage.

Aaron
One of the issues can also be, that it takes time and money to hire and train police officers, as the population is more spread out, you need more officers per 1,000 people then an older compact city. For example suppose you have two officers in a patrol car, and they can patrol an area of 25 square miles in a shift, some of the suburban areas might have 500 people in that area, a city might have 50,000. Now it costs $40,000 per officer per year, and you need at least 8, total cost of $320,000 add another $30,000 for the patrol car, fuel, maintenance, etc, don't forget it operates 7/24/365. Total cost about $350,000 it costs the city dwellers $7 per year, each to keep that patrol going, it costs the suburbanites $700 per year. In order to cut costs, they might run fewer officers, and while those officers are dealing with other issues, soccer moms in SUVs yapping on cell phones are mowing down their neighbours.....
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