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Posts Tagged ‘safety’

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!)

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.

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?

The Odds of Surviving a Plane Crash

The Book of Odds takes a look at a question that flashes through the minds of many people the moment they board an airplane: what are your odds of surviving a plane crash? They found that “[t]he general survival rate for a casualty-inducing airline incident is about 38% or, in our parlance: your odds of survival are about 1 in 2.63.”

More Bad News for Swimming Pools

Brett Arends at the Wall Street Journal calculates the cost of a backyard pool and advises prospective pool-owners to tread carefully.

Is Ford Once Again Leading the Way in Auto Safety?

In SuperFreakonomics, we tell the story of how Robert Strange McNamara, an outsider at the Ford Motor Co., led the charge the put seat belts in automobiles at Ford. It was not a popular decision within the company nor with the public; pushing for a safety device in a car did a bit too good of a job of reminding people that cars could be quite unsafe. But McNamara got his way. Over time (a long time, it turned out), the seat belt won widespread adoption, saving roughly 250,000 lives in the U.S. alone since 1975.

What the Secretary of Transportation Has to Say About My Car Seat Research

On his blog, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood dismisses my research (see here and here) on car seats.
My favorite quote from the secretary:
“Now, if you want to slice up the data to be provocative, have at it. As a grandfather and as secretary of an agency whose number one mission is safety, I don’t have that luxury.”
Reading the Secretary’s blog post, it strikes me just how differently he is reacting to a challenge than Arne Duncan (now the Secretary of Education) did when I first told him about my work on teacher cheating when Duncan was in charge of the Chicago Public Schools.

The Danger of Safety

In case you haven’t heard, an accident on the Washington metro claimed nine lives last week. But then again, chances are you have heard, as the crash got wide coverage over the airwaves, on the net, and in the papers (by my count, at least five articles appeared in The Times). This is usually the case when trains or planes are involved in deadly disasters.

Black Boxes and Coffin Corners

As searchers recover more wreckage from the Air France jetliner that crashed into the Atlantic last week, Miles O’Brien reports on the perils the jet faced as it flew headlong to its doom in a gauntlet of equatorial thunderstorms. In an interview with BoingBoing TV, O’Brien wonders why jets don’t transmit telemetry data all the time, moving the black box from the back of an aircraft, where it could be lost, crushed or incinerated, to computers safely on the ground. Any ideas, readers?

Would Electric Cars Increase Property Values on Noisy Streets?

A reader named Tomas asks an interesting question: If electric cars became the dominant form of urban transport, would houses on main roads jump in value due to a decrease in noise? Of course Tomas’s scenario may never come to pass, since quiet electric cars pose a danger to blind pedestrians. That’s what the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 . . .

Can the Hair Club for Men Help Solve the Food Safety Problem?

Here’s a post I coauthored with Peter Siegelman (an economist who teaches at University of Connecticut law school) who is one of my earliest and most frequent coauthors (see, for example, here and here). Screenshot from By now, virtually everyone in the country has heard that the Peanut Corporation of America knowingly shipped peanut products contaminated with salmonella bacteria, . . .

After Google Earth Is Banned, What's Next?

For all the good that Google Earth has brought to the world, it’s been a boon for ne’er-do-wells and mischief-makers as well. In the U.K., teenage hooligans allegedly use it to scope out private pools they can crash for impromptu parties. On a darker note, insurgents in Iraq used images from Google Maps to guide their attacks. And the terrorists who killed 170 people in Mumbai last November supposedly used Google Maps images for help navigating the city.

FREAK Shots: Stating the Obvious

Police in England have been criticized for posting signs with obvious messages such as “Caution: water on road during rain,” and “All fuel must be paid for,” according to a BBC report. The Plain English Campaign, a language watchdog group, claims the signs don’t deter criminals and are an insult to everyone else’s intelligence. A spokeswoman from the campaign blames . . .

The FREAK-est Links

Are business schools good for their graduates? (HT: Theodore Pappas) Calling all data crunchers: a grant opportunity. (HT: Brian Kelsey) Police stop two German children attempting to elope to Africa. (Earlier) Are fire sprinklers really necessary? (Earlier)

Shoulder Straps on Airplanes

Photo: Rhett Redelings On a recent United Airlines flight I was surprised to see that their new planes are equipped not just with lap belts, but shoulder restraints as well. This just cannot make any sense. First, planes virtually never crash. Second, when they do crash, it is unlikely that a shoulder restraint will be the deciding factor in whether . . .

Ask a Construction Worker: A Freakonomics Quorum

Safety is an all-too-familiar issue in the construction industry — workers in Las Vegas are striking over it; in April, New York’s building commissioner resigned in light of more than 26 construction worker deaths in the city this year. As for the two recent crane collapses in New York, Patrick Crean, a construction worker at the Freedom Tower site, suspects . . .

The Bright Side of Crime

Note: There is a new research assistant here in the Freakonomics office, and his name is Ryan Hagen. He’s 24 years old, a graduate of N.Y.U. (he majored in English and American literature), and for the past two years he’s worked as a research associate for N.Y.U.’s Center for Catastrophe Preparedness & Response. We are very happy to have him . . .

What Are We to Make of Junky Chinese Imports?

There are a lot of things to think about, and a lot of ways to assess the stream of flawed and dangerous Chinese imports, the accumulation of which has lately captured the public and media imagination. (We touched on the issue briefly here; a new book by Sara Bongiorni, A Year Without “Made in China”: One Family’s True Life Adventure . . .

The FREAKest Links: WarCraft Twelve Steps and Thomas the Tank Imprisonment Edition

In light of our recent discussion of Internet Addiction Disorder, let it be known that the London Free Press reports that U.S. doctors are lobbying to have video game addiction classified as a psychiatric disorder. Online Gamer’s Anonymous, meanwhile, is packed with postings from gamers seeking control of their habits. Via the Wall Street Journal: Parents-to-be are putting more time . . .

Will the “Ten Commandments of Driving” Create a “Benedict Effect”?

When I saw the first headlines, I thought it was some kind of a prank, but it’s not: the Vatican has issued a document concerning “the pastoral care of road users,” which includes a sober discussion of “the phenomenon of human mobility.” It also contains a section called “Drivers’ ‘Ten Commandments,’” which has been the focus of tons of news . . .

Give Your Children Power Tools, and Buy Them Guns

Last week, I blogged about the conservative/Christian website Conservapedia, one of several Wikipedia copycats. Another of these sites is Uncyclopedia, which pokes fun at Wikipedia’s credibility issues by fudging practically every fact. The site is an impressive piece of mockery, perhaps best judged by its very excellent entry on Freakonomics — a book written, per Uncyclopedia, by “economist Bill Reichstag . . .

The FREAKest Links

A study by University of Toronto assistant professor of organizational behavior Jennifer Berdahl found that, contrary to the conventional belief that a woman’s acting “feminine” in the workplace leads to sexual harassment, just the opposite may be true. Berdahl’s paper concluded that women who “act like men” are more likely to experience harassment, possibly because of the conduct’s use as . . .

The FREAKest Links

A new study from decision scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the RAND Corp. suggests that quality of life may be directly related to decision-making ability (a point further dissected in Dan Gilbert‘s Stumbling on Happiness, which Levitt has discussed before). From the San Francisco Chronicle: A study by credit- and fraud-reporting agency Fair Isaac Corp. reveals that Internet advertisers . . .