Is the VMT Even the Proper Metric to Determine Traffic Fatality Rates?

Table of Contents
§ No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 5. 6. Topic Abstract Introduction A New Mathematical Model for Traffic Fatality Analysis The Empirical Relation Between VMT and Crashes Fatality rate per 100,00 licensed drivers Summary and Conclusion Reference List Page No. 1 2 6 14 16 19 20

Abstract
Early estimates by the NHTSA indicate an uptick in the US Traffic Fatalities - to 34,080 highway deaths (y) in 2012 versus 32,367 in 2011 and a corresponding increase in the traffic fatality rate y/x from 1.10 to 1.16. This would be the first such increase after six straight years of declining fatalities since 2005. The Americans-are-driving-more theory is shown to be a mathematical impossibility based on these early estimates for 2012. The VMT (the denominator x in the fatality rate) for 2012 can be calculated and works out to 2938 billion, which is lower than the VMT 2946 billion for 2011. The whole question of how to analyze the annual and quarterly compilation of the US Traffic fatalities data is therefore re-examined and a new mathematical relation between fatalities-VMT, y = mxne-ax, is proposed. This is shown to explain the historical data as well as the most recent trends (2002-2012). Indeed, the power-exponential law proposed here for traffic fatality studies merits the attention of all social scientists and medical researchers interested in a broad range of fatality studies. The fatalities per 100,000 licensed drivers are shown to be still too high compared to the trends established between 1966 and 1985.
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§2. Introduction
The official figures for the number of traffic fatalities in 2012 are now in. Early estimates by the NHTSA (National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration), see Ref. [1], confirm that the number of traffic fatalities went up in 2012, the first uptick after six straight years of decline, starting 2005. The data, obtained from Refs. [1,2], is plotted in Figure 1 and illustrates the dramatic drop in fatalities, which seems to have coincided with the Great Recession in the USA and the financial crisis of 2008.
46,000 44,000

US Highway Fatalities

42,000 40,000 38,000 36,000 34,000 32,000 30,000 2000

2002

2004

2006

2008

2010

2012

2014

Time t [Calendar years]
Figure 1a: The annual US highway fatalities y plotted versus time t in calendar years. The number of fatalities started decreasing sharply after 2006, with the steepest decline coinciding with the financial crisis of 2008. Notice the nearly constant rate, with the data points for 2007, 2008, and 2009 falling on a near perfect straight line. The slope dy/dt = -3688 fatalities per year (negative sign for decrease). For 2007 and 2008, the change in fatalities was ∆y = (41,259 – 37,423) = 3836 and for 2008 and 2009, ∆y =
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(37,423 – 33,883) = 3540, for the average of 3688 per year (see Table 1 here for NHTSA data). There is some good news in this uptick of fatalities – this appears, sadly, to be one sign of the improving US economy, as already being discussed in the popular media; see a small selection, Refs. [3-7] Americans are driving more, as the US economy is slowly recovering. This is generally believed to be at least one contributing factor, while many others are also at work, as we see from some of the highlighted extracts from these popular perceptions. However, cars are safer now, roads are better engineered, and safety advocates have been enforcing various traffic laws (such as seat belt laws) in many states. Hence, individual driver behavior (such texting, cellphone use, and distracted driving) is, probably an important contributor, not just the increase in the miles driven, statistically speaking. US Traffic Fatalities for four selected years Year 2005 2007 2009 2011 2012 * VMT (billions) 2989 3031 2957 2946 2938 Fatal Crashes 39,252 37,435 30,862 29,757 n/a US Traffic Fatality rate, y/x Fatalities, y Per 100 million VMT 43,510 1.46 41,259 1.36 33,883 1.15 32,999 1.10 34,080 1.16

(*) The italics are used to denote the early estimated values. Note that VMT estimated for 2012 is lower than for 2011. Hence, the Americans-are- driving-more, and therefore more fatal crashes and fatalities, explanation fails to account for the increase in fatalities in 2012 after a six year decline.

Indeed, when the traffic fatalities were declining, that too was attributed to the weak economy, especially in 2009, because by then everyone knew the US economy was in deep trouble, see Refs. [8-11]. So, when traffic deaths were going down it was the US weak economy. And, when they are going up again, it is the improving US economy. However, at least in this latest instance, the argument of Americans driving more in 2012,

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compared to 2011, as factor in the recent uptick CANNOT be supported by simple mathematics of how this fatality rate is arrived at.

Consider the following. According to the NHTSA, the fatality rate is estimated increase in the fatality rate from 1.10 to 1.16; see Ref. [1], click here. The image of Table 1 from Ref. [1] is reproduced for convenience. The fatality rate, as defined by NHTSA, and used in all such studies, is the ratio y/x where the numerator y is the number of fatalities and the denominator x is the total miles driven by all Americans, or the Vehicle Mile Traveled (VMT) which is the product of the number of vehicles in the USA multiplied by the number of miles driven by each vehicle. For 2011, this was estimated at 2946 billion miles and the fatalities were 32,367. Hence, the fatality rate for 2011 was 32,367/2946 = 10.987 per billion miles or 1.10 per 100 million VMT. For 2012, the early estimate is 34,080 and the fatality rate is estimated to go up to 1.16 which means that the VMT must have a value of 2938 billion for the fatality rate to go up to 1.16 from 1.10. Hence, simple math tells us that the
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VMT is lower than the 2011 value and the Americans-are-driving-more argument fails at least in the context of these latest figures. If there is no change in the fatality rate then the higher fatalities, 34,080 in 2012 would mean VMT = 3102 billion, an increase over the 2011 figure of 2946 billion. But if the fatality rate goes up the VMT must decrease and can fall below the 2011 value. That is how the y/x ratios work!

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1988 US Fatal Crashes
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2005 2007

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1992
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Vehicle Miles Traveled, VMT, x [billions]
Figure 1b: The total number of fatal crashes, fatalities, and the VMT for the years 1988-2011, can be obtained from Tables 1 and 2 of Traffic Safety Fact, 2011. As seen here, the number of fatal crashes actually decreased, as VMT increased (1988 to 1992) and then started increasing at a low rate. The number of fatal crashes and fatalities reached their recent peak values in 2005 (39,252 crashes and 43,510 fatalities). The VMT reached its peak value in 2007 (3031 billion). Since then, the number of fatal crashes (and therefore fatalities) has been decreasing at a very high rate, with a very small decrease in the VMT. This
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is illustrated by the rather steep slope of the graph, the straight line joining the data for 2007 and 2011. Thus, the general myth of increasing VMT associated with increasing fatal crashes and fatalities must be carefully re-assessed. In a companion article we will reconsider this by considering the VMT and fatalities data for individual states.

§3. A New Mathematical Model for the Analysis of Traffic Fatalities
With this background, let us consider the following data, which I first encountered back in January 2000, in a front page article in The Detroit News. After a bit of internet search, I was able to find a synopsis of this 13+ year old article (by Tom Greenwood) at the website of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). “Motorists are Speeding, But Fewer Die” proclaimed the headlines (click here http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=10735 ). US Traffic Fatalities for three selected years Year Vehicle Mile Traveled, US Traffic Fatality rate, y/x VMT (billions) Fatalities, y Per 100 million VMT 1966 925.9 50,894 5.50 1996 2485.8 42,065 1.69 1998 2631.5 41,501 1.58 Source: Table A1 in http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811346.pdf (Also cited in The Detroit News, Jan 4, 2000) The values above differ slightly from Ref.[12]. The speed limit had gone up to 70 mph in the highways around Metro Detroit, following the repeal of the National Speed Limit of 55 mph which went into effect after the Arab oil embargo of 1973. The NSL, approved by Congress in those heady days, was supposed to be a fuel saving measure and way to achieve energy independence! If it were only true! Consider the two extreme points, 1966 and 1998. On a x-y graph, these two points can always be joined by a straight line, see line labeled A in Figure 2.
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The general equation of this straight line is y = hx + c. The slope h and intercept c can be determined easily using the following relations from our middle school algebra. Slope h = (y2 – y1)/(x2 – x1) Intercept c = (y1 - hx1) = (y2 – hx2) ……..(1) ……..(2)

Thus, the slope of the graph is negative with h = - 5.507 (with x in billions, not 100 millions) and the intercept c = 55,993. The (x, y) pair for 1996 falls practically on this same line, see Figure 2.

80,000

US Traffic Fatalities, y

70,000 60,000 50,000 40,000

y/x = 5.497 x in 100 millions

y = hx + c = - 5.51x + 55,993

1966 1998

A

30,000 20,000 10,000 0 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500

y/x = 1.577 x in 100 millions

Vehicle Miles Traveled, VMT, x [billions]
Figure 2: A x-y graph for the US fatalities, based on the information in The Detroit News Jan 2000 article. Now, it should be obvious why the fatality rate decreases year after year as the VMT increases. If our (x, y) pairs fall on a line with a negative slope, the
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ratio y/x will decrease as we move down the line. This follows from the mathematical equation just deduced. The ratio y/x = m = h + (c/x) has two parts, h and the (c/x) due to the nonzero intercept, y/x = - 5.507 + (55,993/x). From basic algebra courses, we know that the slope of the “rays”, the two dashed lines joining each (x, y) pair back to the origin (0, 0) is equal to the fatality rate, y/x. This keeps decreasing as we move down the line A with the negative slope and explains why fatality rates always seem to decrease as VMT increases. Of greater importance than the decreasing rate, or the y/x ratio, is the reduction in the number of fatalities, y. However, this mathematical law, y = hx + c, deduced here, with the negative slope, has the following limitations which are immediately obvious if we try to extrapolate backwards and forwards to lower and higher VMTs. a) At some very high VMT, x = x0 = - c/h, the number of fatalities y = 0. This is impossible and the decrease in fatalities cannot continue indefinitely. b) At zero VMT (when x = 0) and no one is driving, fatalities y = c = 55,993. This too is impossible. However, point (a) seems to be the current mindset in traffic fatality analysis. The VMT metric is used since the more the miles driven, the greater the opportunities for getting into an adverse incident like a crash (fatal, injury, or just property damage). The population is increasing, the number of cars per household is increasing, the number of licensed drivers is increasing, and so Americans, taken together, are driving more and more and the VMT is increasing, overall. Even so, the fatality rate, as measured by the ratio y/x, is decreasing, and the number of fatalities (except for the recent figure for 2012) each year attained new historically record lows. Of course, this should hardly be surprising since we are using a large number for the denominator, a number that keeps on increasing year after year (historically speaking, in the BIG picture). Occasionally, we hit “bumps” in this line of reasoning, like the recent increasing fatalities. But, as shown already the estimates of y/x = 1.16 and y = 34,080 do not agree with an increase in the VMT over 2011.

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Anyway, the main point is that fatalities cannot keep decreasing, indefinitely, with increasing VMT, which is the implication of “Motorists are Speeding More, But Fewer Die”. The argument for increasing the speed limit is at least partly based on the fact that fatality rates went down with increasing VMT.
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US Traffic Fatalities, y

50,000

40,000

30,000

20,000

y = mxne-ax = 875x0.66e-x/2000
10,000

0

0

1000

2000

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Vehicle Miles Traveled, VMT, x [billions]
Figure 3: A fatalities-VMT graph, based on the information in The Detroit News Jan 2000 article. A graph with a maximum point can be theorized and was prepared in Jan 2000 before I was able to obtain all the historical data. Anyway, without getting into any controversies about the pros and cons of increasing speed limits and its relation to fatalities, back in Jan 2000, intrigued by the negative slope that I had calculated, it seemed to me that this downward trend is unsustainable. At low VMT, the graph should actually turn around and reveal a positive slope and therefore go through a maximum point. After a couple of visits to the local library in Troy, Michigan (which used to maintain a good automotive section, remember there was no Google search,

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for me at least, back in 2000), I was able get old publications which provided all the historical data that I was looking for. The same data has also been compiled in a more recent NHTSA publication analyzing the decline in the fatality rate, see Refs. [12-14]. The simplest mathematical equation which reveals a maximum point is the following. Power-exponential law y = mxne-ax ……...(3) ……..(4)

Derivative, or slope, dy/dx = (n – ax)(y/x)

The function here is the product of two simple functions, xn and e-ax. The first means the variable y, fatalities in our case, will keep on increasing as x increases, without any limit. In our case x is the VMT. The rate of increase, given by the derivative dy/dx = n(xn-1) = n(y/x) , the slope of the graph, depends on the exponent n. If n = 1, we get a linear increase and dy/dx = y/x. If n > 1, the graph shows an increasing slope and the fatalities will increase at an accelerating rate. If n < 1, the graph will show a decreasing slope and fatalities will increase at a decreasing rate. The equation y = mxn is called the power-law model and is encountered in many branches of science and engineering. The three cases just described give rise to what is known as Newtonian and non-Newtonian behavior if we study how viscosity of a liquid, or a liquid-solid mixture, changes as it is sheared. The Newtonian law is τ = μ (dγ/dt) where x is now the shearing (or stirring) rate, dγ/dt, and y is the shear stress, τ. The slope of the graph, y/x, is the constant μ , the viscosity. However, we also encounter deviations from Newton’s linear law with n > 1 and n < 1. (This was also the subject of my doctoral thesis at MIT, Refs. [15,16].) The exponential law e-ax is also encountered in many problems, such as radioactive decay (half-life of a radioactive element is determined using the exponential law), or the rise and decay of currents in an electrical circuit (with the properties of resistance, inductance and capacitance). The derivative dy/dx = -ae-ax = -ay. Electric car enthusiasts have to pay attention to this during charging and discharging of their car batteries (Tesla’s Model S, for

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example, see recent articles where I have used the same power-exponential law to analysis profits and revenues of Tesla Motors, Refs. [17,18]). The product of these two functions yields a maximum point and the location of this maximum can be determined easily using the equation for the slope, or derivative dy/dx. For x < n/a, the slope is positive and graph is a rising curve. For x > n/a, the slope is negative and graph is a falling curve. At x = n/a, the slope is zero and the graph has its maximum point. Back in Jan 2000, based on this line of reasoning, I fitted equation 3 to the three data points. (The graph is still available in my old laptop where I preserve many old files!) With a slight variation in the value of the constant m, it is seen that the same equation envelops all of the historical data from 1921 to 2012, see Figure 4. The data for the years 1999 to 2012 was not available back in Jan 2000 when I first analyzed the US traffic fatalities data.
60,000

y = 875x0.66e-x/2000 US Traffic Fatalities, y
50,000

40,000

30,000

20,000

y = 700x0.66e-x/2000

10,000

0 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 4500 5000

Vehicle Miles Traveled, VMT, x [billions]
Figure 4: A fatalities-VMT graph, based on the information in The Detroit News Jan 2000 article, with all of the historical data (from 1921, the earliest year for
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which VMT data is available) and also the more recent data for 2002-2012, since these equations were first developed in 2000. With an adjustment of just one parameter m = 700, the graph can be seen to envelope all of the data. The numerical value of n = 0.66 and a = 1/2000 yields a maximum at x = 1333.3 which coincides approximately with the VMT around1973. The peak in fatalities was in 1972, and equal to 54,589. This is also matched quite nicely. The data from two sources (NHTSA and NSC) can be shown to follow the same pattern and was considered in the companion article, Ref. [19]. Thus, the US traffic fatalities have been generally decreasing, after reaching a peak in 1972 (with 54,589 traffic deaths) and with a general increase in the VMT. We also see short periods of increasing deaths with increasing VMT.
60,000 55,000 50,000 45,000 40,000

US Highway Fatalities

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30,000 25,000 1950

1960

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1980

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2020

Time t [Calendar years]
Figure 5: The annual US highway fatalities (y) plotted versus time (t) in calendar years. The last segment here is the same as the graph of Figure 1. The fatalities versus time (y-t) graph which considers the period 1966 to 2012 is illustrated in Figure 5. This data can be found in Refs. [12-14], see in
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particular, Ref. [13], the Traffic Safety Facts 2011 which provides the fatalities, VMT data and also data on the number of crashes (all types) and fatal crashes for the years 1966 to 2011. The number of fatalities started decreasing sharply after the peak in 1972. Before this, in the 1950s and the 1960s, the number of highway deaths was increasing at an alarming rate, as Americans were driving more and more (increasing VMT, see Figure 4). The public uproar over this “epidemic” of US highway deaths, and the publication of Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at any Speed”, forced Congress to hold highly publicized hearings and pass the National Traffic Safety Act in 1966. It is clear that the use of the metric VMT in the denominator of the ratio y/x, to compute the widely used traffic fatality rate, fatalities per 100 million VMT, does NOT lend itself to easy interpretation. With the confusing variation in the y/x ratios, we seem to be having it both ways. We use it to argue in favor of the higher speed limits, since fatality rates are seen to decline, in spite of the increase in the speed limits and more miles driven (clearly stated in Motorists are Speeding, But Fewer Die). We are also using it to justify the increase of decrease in fatalities, by also throwing in other arguments like the weather (mild winter weather in 2012) and the strength or weakness of the US economy. And, it is clear that this explanation certainly cannot be borne out by the simple math for 2012. We cannot explain the uptick in the fatalities for 2012 by invoking the favorite American-are-driving more argument. The VMT did NOT go up in 2012 compared to 2011. Only the fatalities seem to have increased. Another detailed discussion of the same traffic fatality data, from the perspective of a “work function” may be found in Ref. [19]; see also related articles, Refs. [20-23], and a bibliography list, Ref. [24]. The potential crossover between the declining traffic accident deaths and rising firearms deaths is discussed in these articles. In what follows here we consider the relation between the VMT and the number of crashes, both fatal and non-fatal.

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§4. The Empirical Relation between VMT and Crashes (Fatal and Non-fatal)
If we consider the vast body of the Traffic Fatalities data compiled by the NHTSA, especially for the years 1988 to 2007, we find a consistent pattern of increasing VMT, year after year. The VMT seems to have increased linearly at a fixed rate from 2026 billion in 1988 to 3031 billion in 2007.
8000 7000 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 1985

All Crashes (000s)

VMT (bil.)

1990

1995

2000

2005

2010

Time t [Calendar years]
Figure 6: The total crashes (all kinds, red squares, in thousands), is seen to both increase and decrease as the VMT increased, year after year (diamonds, in billions) between 1988 and 2007. The VMT trend reversed itself from 2007-2011 (not plotted here). Thus, the VMT-Total crashes relation is a complicated one with total crashes showing both upticks and downticks with increasing VMT. The trend then reversed between 2008 to 2011 with VMT decreasing each year to 2946 billion by 2011 (the overall down turn in the US economy, $4 gas, high unemployment, etc. were probably important contributors). However, if
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we consider the period 1988 to 2007, when the VMT was consistently going up, we find that the total crashes actually decreased at first, from 6,887,000 in 1988 to 6,000,000 in 2002 and then the trend reversed itself. The number of crashes started increasing, reaching a peak in 1996. Then the trend reversed itself again with a decline in the total crashes, but at a decreasing rate.

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Fatal Crashes (000s)
4000

3500

3000

2500

VMT (bil.)

2000

1500 1985

1990

1995

2000

2005

2010

Time t [Calendar years]
Figure 7: The fatal crashes (injury and property damage crashes are excluded, red squares, in thousands), is seen to both increase and decrease as the VMT increased, year after year (diamonds, in billions) between 1988 and 2007. The VMT trend reversed itself from 2007-2011 (not plotted here). Thus, the VMT and fatal crashes is also a complicated one. Fatal crashes do not always go up with increasing VMT.

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Finally, we consider the relation between fatalities and total crashes and fatal crashes. A fatal crash, by definition, is a crash where at least one (or more) fatalities are observed. Hence, a strong correlation between fatalities and fatal crashes is expected, as seen in Figure 8. However, the relation between fatalities and total crashes should also be considered since this means several other favorable factors converged to prevent such as crash from turning into a fatal crash. A weaker relation is thus observed, as illustrated in Figure 9.
50,000

US Highway Fatalities

48,000 46,000 44,000 42,000 40,000 38,000 36,000 34,000 32,000 30,000 2,500 3,000 3,500 4,000 4,500 5,000

Fatal Crashes [in 000s]
Figure 8: Fatalities increase with fatal crashes but fatal crashes do not always go up with increasing VMT.

§5. Fatality Rate per 100K Licensed Drivers
The fatality rate per 100,000 licensed drivers may be found in Table 2, in Chapter 1 Trends, of the 2011 Traffic Safety Facts. According to this measure, the fatality rate has been decreasing steadily, from 50.39 per 100,000 licensed drivers in 1966 to 15.28 in 2011. However, as with the more widely used fatality-VMT ratio, y/x, one must look for the relationship between the two quantities that enter into the ratio.
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US Highway Fatalities

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Total Crashes [in 000s]
Figure 9: Fatalities and total crashes data reveal some scatter. Total crashes do not always go up with increasing VMT.

Fatality Rate, y/x [per 100,000]

70.00 60.00 50.00 40.00 30.00 20.00

1966

1985

10.00
0.00 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 2400

Licensed Drivers, x [in 100,000s]
Figure 10: The fatality rate, y/x (per 100,000 licensed drivers) is plotted here against the calculated value of x, the number of licensed drivers. This is determined from the fatalities ( y ) and the fatality rate y/x.
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The number of licensed drivers x can be computed from the fatalities y and the fatality rate y/x when x being the licensed drivers per 100,000 population. The graph of the fatality rate versus the number of licensed drivers, see Figure 10, reveals a downward trend. However, the fatality rate is seen to be higher than the trends established between 1966 and 1985. All the fatality rates for the more recent years can be seen to fall above the straight line joining the data points for 1966 and 1985. In other words, the new record lows in the fatalities and the fatality rates that were being reported for the past six years, see references cited, was largely an artifact of the VMT metric that was being used to assess the fatality rate.
65,000 60,000

US Highway Fatalities

55,000 50,000 45,000 40,000 35,000 30,000 25,000 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000

Licensed Drivers, x [in 100,000s]
Figure 11: The Drivers-Fatalities x-y diagram for US highway death from 1966 to 2011. The number of licensed drivers x, is calculated from the fatalities y and the fatality rate, y/x. The s-y graph reveals a downward trend. Extrapolating from the trend established between 1966 and 1985, it is clear that the number of fatalities in recent years was higher, after accounting for the increase in the
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number of licensed drivers. The (x, y) pair for 2008 falls right on the extrapolation of the 1966-1985 line. The fatalities fell below this line after 2008 but are showing the uptick again and will probably follow the line in the coming years. Thus, we can rationalize the uptick in fatalities observed in 2012 by a careful analysis of the large body of available fatality data.

This is also supported by the graph of fatalities y versus the number of licensed drivers Again, suing the same two years 1966 and 1985 as our reference, it is clear that the number of fatalities for recent years was still too high, after accounting for the increase in the number of licensed drivers. Indeed, the (x, y) pair for 2008 falls right on the extrapolation of the straight line joining the 1966-1985 trend line. The number of fatalities fell below this line and has again shown an uptick, indicating that it might again rise to reach this trend line in the coming years. These “fluctuations” in the fatalities (due to increased drivers, miles driven, etc.) cannot be understood if we merely examine the behavior of the y/x ratios.

In summary,
1. Simple mathematical calculations, based on the early estimates of the fatalities and the fatality rate for 2012 indicate that the VMT for 2012 is lower than the 2011 VMT. Hence, we must seek alternative explanations for rise in US highway fatalities in 2012, which began after the first quarter (mild winter weather in the US and so Americans are driving more) and continued through the year (the US economy is recovering and Americans are driving more). The weight of the empirical evidence, going back a few decades, suggests that the number of crashes, both fatal and non-fatal, is not directly correlated to the VMT and therefore the link between VMT and the observed fatalities is not firmly established. Hence, the use of the VMT to determine the fatality rate, which seems to be on permanent state of continuously declining values, should be re-examined. 2. In this context, it is also shown that the power-exponential law, y = mxne-ax, provides a good description of the historical fatalities and VMT
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data including the appearance of a maximum point on the fatalities-VMT graph. Further discussion may be found in a companion article where the crossover between declining traffic deaths and rising firearms death is discussed using the model described here. 3. Attention is thus also called to the fatality rate per 100,000 licensed drivers. Using this metric, rather than the VMT metric, it is clear that the current fatality rates are still too high compared to the trends established between 1966 and 1985.

Reference List
1. Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2012, Traffic Safety Facts, May 2012, NHTSA DOT HS 811 741 http://wwwnrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811741.pdf 2. Traffic Safety Facts 2011 Data, Overview, DOT HS 811 753, http://wwwnrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811753.pdf Table 1 here provides the fatalities and VMT data for 2002-2011 while 2012 data is obtained from Ref. [1]. 3. US Traffic fatalities Rise for the first time since 2005, The Car Connection, Feb 25, 2013, http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2013/02/25/u-straffic-fatalities-rise-for-first-time-since-2005/ Projection by National Safety Council (NSC), a non-profit organization, as opposed to NHTSA, a government agency. NSC figures include traffic fatalities on private property, not just public roads. NHTSA identified several key areas of concern:
  

Big rigs, where occupancy fatality rates surged 20% in 2011. Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, which all saw greater numbers of deaths. Distracted driving, a growing problem that was the cause of 3,331 fatalities in 2011.

AAA also suggested that America’s crumbling roads might be partially to blame for the increase. NSC identifies similar problems, and also notes that Americans are driving more. Thanks to a recovering economy (which has increased the number of commuters) and a mild 2012 winter, more motorists were on the road last year. And typically, more people on the road means more accidents — and likely, more fatalities.

4. Safety Council: Traffic Deaths Surged in 2012, http://news.msn.com/us/safety-council-traffic-deaths-surged-in-2012 The
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council and other safety advocates attribute the increase in part to more driving due to an improved economy and a mild winter last year.

5. US road deaths climbing again after years of decline, new data show, by Paul A. Eisenstein, “There is a relationship between the economy, gas prices, driving
and fatalities,” noted Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “However, the increase can’t be explained solely because of an improving economy and more discretionary. Yet to be seen is whether increased freeway speed limits are implicated. But despite some concerns as states continue to relax those limits – Texas opening the nation’s fastest roadway, at 85 mph, this autumn. However, previous years showed little direct linkage, the death toll dropping even as most states had approved steadily higher speeds.

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/21/16070501-us-roaddeaths-climbing-again-after-years-of-decline-new-data-show?lite 6. US fatalities soar 13.5 percent in first quarter of 2012, by Jim Barnett, CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/23/travel/us-traffic-fatalities "While
it is likely not the only factor involved, AAA agrees that warmer-than-average winter weather may have contributed to higher vehicle miles traveled, and ultimately more fatal crashes," said Jacob Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research with the Automobile Association of America. "These data show there is more work to be done to improve driver safety such as limiting distractions, reducing impaired driving and promoting a culture of safety among motorists." ..If the current estimates hold, the first quarter numbers would represent the second largest year-to-year quarterly increase in traffic fatalities since the government began recording them in 1975. Traffic fatalities in the United States peaked in 1972, with 54,589 killed, according to the Department of Transportation. But since then, there has been stricter enforcement of driving laws and programs to change driving behavior that have helped improve roadway safety. Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration shows vehicle miles traveled in the first three months of 2012 increased by about 9.7 billion miles, 1.4% more than 2011. "After reaching a 60-year low last year, it is disappointing for AAA to see driver fatalities rise," Nelson said in a written statement. "Examination of federal data show that traffic crashes occur more frequently as the number of miles traveled increases."

7. US Death spike in 2012 after tumbling last year, Exhaust Notes, Dec 10, 2012, by Claire Martin, http://editorial.autos.msn.com/blogs/autosblogpost.aspx?post=6ba9947b -1a9e-43bd-b752-476d7777e559 New statistics released by the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration reveal a yo-yo in traffic deaths over the past two years. While fatalities dropped to 32,367 in 2011 -- the lowest level since 1949 -- they jumped by 9 percent in the first half of 2012. What gives? Americans are driving more this year, to put it simply. "In 2011, travel on U.S. roads fell to its lowest level since 2003," David Shepardson writes in The Detroit News. "Last year, U.S. drivers logged 35.7 billion fewer miles over 2010, down 1.2 percent to 2.963 trillion miles." Page | 21

But this year, we're making up for that lost road time. According to NHTSA, drivers logged 15.6 billion more miles behind the wheel in the first six months of 2012, the latest numbers available. That's a 1.1 percent increase. Balmy weather in the first three months of 2012 was likely a factor. As more motorists took advantage of the improved driving conditions, there was a 13.4 percent uptick in fatalities. Fatality rates for the first six months of the year hit their highest levels since 2009; the increase was the most dramatic since 1979.

8. The recession’s silver lining: fewer traffic fatalities in 2009, by Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun, March 12, 2010 http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-03-12/news/balmd.cm.traffic12mar12_1_traffic-fatalities-highway-deaths-traffic-deaths 9. US Highway Deaths lowest since 1961, by Ken Thomas, Associated Press, http://www.saferoads.org/us-highway-deaths-lowest-levels-1961 The
recession and $4 per gallon gas meant people drove less to save more. Experts also cited record high seat belt use, tighter enforcement of drunken driving laws and the work of advocacy groups that encourage safer driving habits. Preliminary figures being released by the government Monday show that 37,313 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year. That's 9.1 percent lower than the year before, when 41,059 died, and the fewest since 1961, when there were 36,285 deaths.

10. U. S. Traffic Fatalities Hit Historic Low, by Richard Read, Mar 10, 2010, http://www.thecarconnection.com/news/1043314_u-s-traffic-fatalitieshit-historic-lows The DOT attributes the drop in traffic fatalities to high-profile campaigns
that encouraged wearing seat belts and discouraged drunk driving. We imagine that the reduction is also due to safety improvements introduced by automakers themselves, like those found on the new Mercedes-Benz S400 hybrid and its ESF Safety Car. However, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and many others know that new problems lay on the horizon -- particularly those of texting, taking phone calls behind the wheel, and other forms of distracted driving.

11. US Traffic Fatalities Plummet: But Why? By Michelle Ernst, Sep 23, 2010, http://blog.tstc.org/2010/09/23/u-s-traffic-fatalities-plummet-but-why/
The consensus seems to be that multiple factors are contributing to the decline. Americans are driving less as a result of the spike in gas prices and the great recession, but this does not appear to explain the entire decline. In 2008, total vehicle miles traveled fell by 1.9 percent nationwide, but in 2009 VMT actually increased by 0.2%. There is some evidence to suggest that the recession and gas price fluctuations has changed the type of driving that Americans are doing — fewer recreational trips (which are more likely to involve alcohol), fewer trips by young drivers (who are more likely to be squeezed by higher gas prices and more likely to be out of work), slower travel speeds as drivers try to conserve gas, etc. Greater use of graduated licensing laws may also be making a dent, given that young male drivers are responsible for a disproportionate share of traffic deaths.

12. Analysis of the Significant Decline in Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2008, Transportation Research Board, http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/163929.aspx
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13. Traffic Safety Facts 2011, A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and General Estimates System (GES), DOT HS 811 754, http://wwwnrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811754AR.PDF The data being analyzed in this article were obtained from Chapter 1 of this annual report (the latest available as of this writing). 14. Analysis of Decline in Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities, http://wwwnrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811346.pdf Also, appendix table of fatalities since 1899-2009 (Page 31 of report). 15. Deformation of semi-solid Sn-15Pct Pb Alloy, by V. Laxmanan and M. C. Flemings, Metallurgical Transactions A, Dec 1980, vol. 11 pp. 1927-1937, see http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02655112?LI=true 16. The Deformation and Rheological Behavior of Partially Solid Tin-15% Lead Alloy, Sc. D. Thesis Dissertation, by V. Laxmanan, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass (1979). 17. Tesla Motors: Nonlinear Analysis for Profitability, Published Feb 28, 2013, http://www.scribd.com/doc/127767159/Tesla-Motors-NonlinearModel-for-Profitability-Analysis 18. Tesla Motors Profits (Losses)-Revenues Analysis and a New Measure for Profitability, Published February 26, 2013, http://www.scribd.com/doc/127436107/Tesla-Motors-Profits-LossesRevenues-Analysis-and-a-New-Measure-of-Profitability-MPR 19. Highway Fatalities Trend shows it first uptick in Six Years: Predicting the Crossover with Firearms Deaths, Published May 18, 2013, http://www.scribd.com/doc/142199172/Highway-Fatalities-TrendShows-Its-First-Uptick-in-Six-Years-Predicting-Crossover-with-FirearmsDeaths 20. American Gun Deaths to Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 2105, by Chris Christoff and Ilan Kolet, Dec 19, 2012, Bloomberg News, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-19/american-gun-deaths-toexceed-traffic-fatalities-by-2015.html Graph of crossover for firearm deaths. 21. Gun Deaths to Surpass deaths in Traffic Accidents by 2015: report, by Philip Caulfield, New York Daily News, Dec 19, 2012
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http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/gun-deaths-outpace-trafficdeaths-2015-report-article-1.1223721 22. Death rates from guns, traffic accidents converging, by Kelly Kennedy, USA Today, Dec 21, 2012 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/09/guns-trafficdeaths-rates/1784595/ Deaths from traffic accidents have dropped dramatically over the
last 10 years, while firearm-related fatalities rose for decades before leveling off in the past decade, a USA TODAY analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Meanwhile, the rate of firearms deaths has exceeded traffic fatalities in several states, including Arizona, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Michigan, Nevada and Oregon, records show. The rate is equal in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In the United States in 2010, the rate of firearm deaths was 10 people per 100,000, while for traffic accidents it was 12 per 100,000. Firearm-related deaths totaled 31,672 in 2010.

23. Money in Economics is Just like Energy in Physics, Published January 14, 2013, http://www.scribd.com/doc/120324960/Money-in-Economicsis-Just-like-Energy-in-Physics-Extending-Planck-s-law-beyond-Physics 24. Bibliography of Articles on the Extension of Planck’s Ideas and Einstein’s Ideas on Energy Quantum to Topic Outside Physics, by V. Laxmanan, Published April 17, 2013, http://www.scribd.com/doc/120324960/Money-in-Economics-is-Justlike-Energy-in-Physics-Extending-Planck-s-law-beyond-Physics

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About the author V. Laxmanan, Sc. D.
The author obtained his Bachelor’s degree (B. E.) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Poona and his Master’s degree (M. E.), also in Mechanical Engineering, from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, followed by a Master’s (S. M.) and Doctoral (Sc. D.) degrees in Materials Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA. He then spent his entire professional career at leading US research institutions (MIT, Allied Chemical Corporate R & D, now part of Honeywell, NASA, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), and General Motors Research and Development Center in Warren, MI). He holds four patents in materials processing, has co-authored two books and published several scientific papers in leading peer-reviewed international journals. His expertise includes developing simple mathematical models to explain the behavior of complex systems. While at NASA and CWRU, he was responsible for developing material processing experiments to be performed aboard the space shuttle and developed a simple mathematical model to explain the growth Christmas-tree, or snowflake, like structures (called dendrites) widely observed in many types of liquid-to-solid phase transformations (e.g., freezing of all commercial metals and alloys, freezing of water, and, yes, production of snowflakes!). This led to a simple model to explain the growth of dendritic structures in both the groundbased experiments and in the space shuttle experiments. More recently, he has been interested in the analysis of the large volumes of data from financial and economic systems and has developed what may be called the Quantum Business Model (QBM). This extends (to financial and economic systems) the mathematical arguments used by Max Planck to develop quantum physics using the analogy Energy = Money, i.e., energy in physics is like money in economics. Einstein applied Planck’s ideas to describe the photoelectric effect (by treating light as being composed of particles called photons, each with the fixed quantum of energy conceived by Planck). The mathematical law deduced by Planck, referred to here as the generalized power-exponential law, might
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actually have many applications far beyond blackbody radiation studies where it was first conceived. Einstein’s photoelectric law is a simple linear law and was deduced from Planck’s non-linear law for describing blackbody radiation. It appears that financial and economic systems can be modeled using a similar approach. Finance, business, economics and management sciences now essentially seem to operate like astronomy and physics before the advent of Kepler and Newton. Finally, during my professional career, I also twice had the opportunity and great honor to make presentations to two Nobel laureates: first at NASA to Prof. Robert Schrieffer (1972 Physics Nobel Prize), who was the Chairman of the Schrieffer Committee appointed to review NASA’s space flight experiments (following the loss of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986) and second at GM Research Labs to Prof. Robert Solow (1987 Nobel Prize in economics), who was Chairman of Corporate Research Review Committee, appointed by GM corporate management.

Cover page of AirTran 2000 Annual Report
Can you see that plane flying above the tall tree tops that make a nearly perfect circle? It requires a great deal of imagination to see and to photograph it.

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