Death by Streetcar: What are the Odds?

Recently WCPO Channel 9 aired an I-Team investigation entitled “Streetcar will cause accidents & deaths”; a scare story to rack up ratings for February Sweeps. Viewers immediately took to social media to express their outrage of the biased and irresponsible journalism that Cincinnati’s Streetcar project has been subject to for almost 7 years. Referencing incidents with Houston’s MetroRail and the TriMet Light Rail in Portland, Oregon, the four minute exposé misled viewers to believe that streetcars were responsible for traffic collisions and subsequent deaths. Accident numbers overshadowed the facts, which is that motorists and pedestrians were at fault for 96% of all streetcar related incidents. In short, that means that people failed to yield to traffic signals and caused collisions with the streetcar.

Unfortunately, the way WCPO presented their story made it sound like the mere existence of rail in a city was an imminent death trap for citizens. They even produced a fear-mongering chart to list out all the death statistics, which totaled around 300 nationwide over the past 20 years, or 15 annual fatalities.

Here’s how streetcar related incidents compare to other accidents:

Streetcars Are Safer Than…

Snowplows – Ohio State Transportation officials have recorded 80 crashes in the 2013-14 winter
Cows  – Cattle kill 22 humans a year
Vending Machines – 38 deaths by people rocking/tilting the machine
Lightning – 23 deaths in 2013
Televisions – 41 fatalities due to TVs falling over in 2012
Helicopters – 420 deaths in 2012, which means you’re 28 times more likely to be killed by Chopper 9, WCPO’s news helicopter, than by the Cincinnati Streetcar