Infographic: How dangerous is your daily commute?

Infographics present the latest NHTSA statistics on the likelihood of having a fatal accident while commuting to and from work.

Sunset commute. (Photo: Joanna Pędzich-Opioła)
Sunset commute. (Photo: Joanna Pędzich-Opioła)

Those of us who commute to work every day are well aware of how much time it sucks out of our lives, a kind of neither-here-nor-there existence that happens between places. It’s so boring and aggravating that it’s easy to lose sight of the risk involved: Some unlucky commuters never arrive at their destination. Injury Claim Coach, a company concerned with Things That Go Bump In the Car, has pulled together and visualized statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) with data from between 2012 and 2016. Injury Claims Coach’s infographics show just when and where one is most likely to die while driving to work or back home.


All visualizations below are by Injury Claim Coach.

Just how lethal is commuting?

2016 was the most lethal year since 2007 for American drivers, with nearly 40,000 people losing their lives in accidents. To assess how many of those were commuting-related, Injury Claim Coach tracked fatalities by the times of day in which they occurred. They concluded 24% of them, or 1 in 4, occurred during morning or evening drive times. Taking a train is definitely safer. Or a bus.

Evening claimed the lion’s share of deaths: 62%. The most dangerous day is, interestingly, Friday, so celebrating the start of the weekend before arriving home is getting a little ahead of oneself. And September and October are especially deadly months—iffy weather, slippery leaves on the roads?


The states with the highest percentage of commuting fatalities

As car-centric as California is, you’d expect it to rank high in the list of deadliest commuting states, but, nope, with the exception of Sonoma County. Quiet New Hampshire, of all places, is the most dangerous commuting state and rapidly getting worse, followed by South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Utah. While neighboring Connecticut’s roadway death toll is rising, too, it’s also currently the safest commuting state, followed by Maryland, Texas, and Hawaii.


The most deadly drive time hours

In the FARS statistics, from 5-6 pm is the most lethal time to be commuting. Are drivers more hassled then, or more tired and with slower reflexes, or maybe even nodding off? The stats don’t really say, though a third of Americans report having fallen asleep while driving at some time. Morning drive time shows less of a peak, though between 8 and 9 am is slightly more risky than the two hours before and after.


The crashiest counties in the U.S.

York County in South Carolina is the county with the highest percentage of commuting fatalities in the country, 34.4%. Not far behind are the rest of the worst, with about 1 in 3 deaths occurring during commuting hours, beginning with California’s Sonoma County.

Injury Claim Coach has also built a cool—maybe “chilling” is a better word—interactive map of counties with the most overall commuting fatalities, the most morning ones, and the most evening crashes. It’s at the bottom of their page.

A commuting jungle out there

Really, it makes sense that drive times see so many fatalities. They’re times of day when the roads are especially congested with people, many of whom are on autopilot after months or years driving the same route. Commuters’ moods may also be a factor, whether they’re peeved at traffic or just eager to get where they’re going. Most don’t really have a choice but to do the whole thing drive after day. Here’s hoping these visualizations, um, drive home the point that taking a car to work or home deserves all the care and energy you can muster, no matter how boring it may be.

Will we still be driving cars in 2027?

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Study helps explain why motivation to learn declines with age

Research suggests that aging affects a brain circuit critical for learning and decision-making.

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

As people age, they often lose their motivation to learn new things or engage in everyday activities. In a study of mice, MIT neuroscientists have now identified a brain circuit that is critical for maintaining this kind of motivation.

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End gerrymandering? Here’s a radical solution

Why not just divide the United States in slices of equal population?

The contiguous U.S., horizontally divided into deciles (ten bands of equal population).

Image: u/curiouskip, reproduced with kind permission.
Strange Maps
  • Slicing up the country in 10 strips of equal population produces two bizarre maps.
  • Seattle is the biggest city in the emptiest longitudinal band, San Antonio rules the largest north-south slice.
  • Curiously, six cities are the 'capitals' of both their horizontal and vertical deciles.
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Surprising Science

Scientists discover why fish evolved limbs and left water

Researchers find a key clue to the evolution of bony fish and tetrapods.

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