Monday, March 31, 2014

Streets are safer than ever

I recently looked up some data in response to a sad person thinking that "our streets" (the writer was writing from New York, but the perception is widespread) are less safe for kids than they were in her time. As long as I was doing the research I thought I should post it here too.  TL;DR: The streets are safer than ever.

There’s more relative deaths due to accident and homicide than due to illness, but that’s because childhood deaths due to illnesses have plummeted. So that means a parent was right to be much more worried about kids dying from measles than guns in the early last century. But the risk is down for all causes, so today a parent ought to be much less worried overall, AND less worried about each individual cause.
“For children older than 1 year of age, the overall decline in mortality during the 20th century has been spectacular. In 1900, more than 3 in 100 children died between their first and 20th birthday; today, less than 2 in 1000 die. At the beginning of the 20th century, the leading causes of child mortality were infectious diseases, including diarrheal diseases, diphtheria, measles, pneumonia and influenza, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, and whooping cough. Between 1900 and 1998, the percentage of child deaths attributable to infectious diseases declined from 61.6% to 2%. Accidents accounted for 6.3% of child deaths in 1900, but 43.9% in 1998. Between 1900 and 1998, the death rate from accidents, now usually called unintentional injuries, declined two-thirds, from 47.5 to 15.9 deaths per 100 000.” from Pediatrics journal
The CDC data shows that death by accidental injury is several times higher than death by homicide, for ALL age groups, even for 15-24 year olds.  Accidental injury is mostly vehicular, so I tend to ask people if they drive on the freeway if they are worried about their kids playing outside or going trick-or-treating.
And in case one is worried about city streets, the drop in risk can't be attributed only to the suburbs and the country. Living in the city is now less dangerous. This article is about town vs country but also talks about overall safety in cities going way up.  I looked up data for New York county, the densest county in NY State, compared to other NY counties using CDC Wonder, and found that New York county had 22 deaths per year per 100,000 between the ages of 1 and 19. That's much closer to the lowest county, Westchester with 17 per 100,000, than to the highest, Sullivan county with 38.6 per 100,000. 


Barry Leiba said...

I've long mused about this sort of thing, often asking people whether they think that kids are really more likely to get abducted or otherwise intentionally harmed today than they were 50 years ago. I've always thought that they're not, and that our common perception to the contrary comes from publicity. In 1964, a child abucted in Colorado probably wouldn't have made much news in Florida; in 2014, well....

And, of course, even knowing the facts won't change any behaviour. It could well be safer than ever to let one's child play alone in the front yard, and yet no one wants to be the parent who falls on the wrong side of the statistics. And so we'll remain overprotective and borderline paranoid.

The stats about New York are interesting: comforting that my own county (Westchester) has the lowest death rate, but surprising that Sullivan County has the highest. I wonder whether one factor might be the combination of the busy Rte 17 and high confidence of safety -- people expect Manhattan streets to be a risk, so they're extra careful with their children, but perhaps families leaving the Roscoe Diner aren't so wary (and should be). Or something like that.

bobb said...

Information over here is always helpfull and correct.The number of accidents is less now

david said...

i agree with what Mr.Barry said.the count is much less now

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