A Safe Hitchhiking Model?

Our podcast called "Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone?" got a listener named Jenny O'Brien thinking. Here's what she wrote us:

Here's the back story: I live in a rural area in Northeast Kansas, where there is no bus, so I am forced to drive all the time.  After I heard your podcast, I started thinking about how to make hitchhiking safe, easy and reliable so I and other rural residents can use it as a public transportation option. I figured that all the hitchhiker really needed was a credential, way to signal her destination, and a system to record who she is riding with for safety.

O'Brien is now in the process of founding a ride-sharing service called Lawrence OnBoard:

Finally, I Was Right About Something

Seven years ago, I blogged about how nonsensical many airline rules and regulations seemed to be.

At the very top of my list was the prohibition on the use of electronics before takeoff and landing. The FAA finally gave into logic on this one, and airlines have been remarkably speedy in instituting the change.

(If you go back and look at the post, you will see that another thing I railed against was the announcement about “in the unlikely event of a water landing.”  There is no doubt this announcement is a complete waste of time, but not long after the post went up, Captain Sullenberger pulled off a water landing.  Thanks for nothing, Sully!)

The Power of the President — and the Thumb

Season 2, Episode 3

In this episode we ask a simple, heretical question: How much does the President of the United States really matter? Stephen Dubner talks to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, economists Austan Goolsbee and Justin Wolfers, and constitutional scholar Bernadette Meyler about how the President’s actual influence can be measured. And Steve Levitt weighs in on how the President shapes the nation.

Also in this episode, we look at another supposed truism: hitchhiking is terribly dangerous. But is that really true?

Does Marijuana Legalization Lead to Fewer Traffic Fatalities?

That's the claim of a new paper by D. Mark Anderson and Daniel I. Rees, put out by the IZA, titled "Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption":

To date, 16 states have passed medical marijuana laws, yet very little is known about their effects. Using state-level data, we examine the relationship between medical marijuana laws and a variety of outcomes. Legalization of medical marijuana is associated with increased use of marijuana among adults, but not among minors. In addition, legalization is associated with a nearly 9 percent decrease in traffic fatalities, most likely to due to its impact on alcohol consumption. Our estimates provide strong evidence that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes.

Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Steps

James Barron and Sydney Ember write in the New York Times about the upcoming closure of the crown of the Statue of Liberty. If you are skeptical of how the government spends money, this article will fuel your fire.

Barron and Ember write:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says it [the crown of the Statue of Liberty] needs a $27.25 million renovation for additional safety improvements that he promised in 2009.

My guess is that, even by government standards, this is a project where the safety benefit per dollar spent is miniscule, or non-existent.

Should We Be Talking About a "Crime Dividend"?

Here's an interesting article by Megan Finnegan from West Side Spirit, a neighborhood newspaper in New York City, about the shutdown of a 30-year-old citizens' crime-prevention program.

Why did it shut down?

In part because funding was cut. But also because it had essentially accomplished its mission:

Like many neighborhoods in Manhattan, the Upper West Side has seen a precipitous drop in crime over the past several decades. Since 1990, total crime rates have been reduced by 84 percent in the 20th Precinct and 82 percent in the 24th Precinct, with the highest reductions in grand larceny auto, murder, robbery and burglary.

This got me to thinking:

When wars end, we expect a "peace dividend." When crime ends, what kind of "crime dividend" (or, perhaps, "safety dividend") should we expect?

Suicides Now More Plentiful Than Traffic Deaths

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) early projections, the number of traffic fatalities fell three percent between 2009 and 2010, from 33,808 to 32,788. Continuing what is now a 25 percent drop since 2005, when there were 43,510 traffic deaths.

Our Daily Bleg: How to Get Firefighters to Wear Seat Belts?

We recently published a post about the dramatic decline in U.S. fire deaths over the past century. A reader named Tricia Hurlbutt writes in with a related challenge.

In Delhi, a Safer Bus Line?

Delhi's Blueline buses are notoriously deadly, perhaps due to a perverse incentive system that rewarded drivers for speedy progress and discouraged investments in the vehicles.

When That Child in the Street Is an Optical Illusion

Let's say you live or work in an area where there are a lot of vulnerable pedestrians - kids, maybe - and a lot of cars as well, and that the cars habitually drive too fast for your taste.

What do you do?