Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Traffic tickets: No impact on fatalities

Letter to the editor in today's SF Chronicle:

Regarding “Traffic deaths soar as enforcement falls” (Sept. 1): It’s fine that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has condemned the National Rifle Association’s promotion of assault weapons.

But it would be even better if the board and Mayor London Breed took decisive action to control a common assault weapon that is a daily menace on our streets. An assault weapon that repeatedly kills or injures pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and passengers. That weapon is the recklessly driven automobile.

And if the supervisors and the mayor haven’t already read Heather Knight’s excellent column, they should. Knight points out that while traffic deaths have increased since 2014, traffic citations in San Francisco have substantially declined. It’s hardly news that the best way to stop a reckless driver is to instill the fear of being cited.

So I suggest that City Hall significantly increase traffic safety law enforcement, especially in the most dangerous traffic corridors, for six months to see if that approach saves lives and reduces the number of injuries on our streets. Afterward, the mayor should publicly issue a progress report. Like gun violence, traffic violence in San Francisco must end.

Bob Ryan
San Francisco

Rob's comment:
As I pointed out the other day, issuing traffic tickets evidently has no impact on traffic deaths in the city: Comparing 2014 with 2018 on traffic fatalities, in 2014 (124,870 tickets) there were 31 traffic deaths on city streets, and in 2018 (50,895 tickets) there were only 23 deaths.

Contrary to Ryan's---and Knight's---analysis, the "news" is that issuing traffic tickets has no influence on traffic fatalities, and its influence on overall traffic safety in the city is also unclear. 

That traffic deaths are caused by "reckless drivers" is the fallacy in Ryan's---and Knight's---analysis. Instead, all drivers sometimes drive too fast and/or take chances and make mistakes. Most of the time they get away with it, but sometimes they don't with deadly consequences.

The problem, in other words, is not about repeat offenders or would-be offenders who can be deterred from driving recklessly.

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