Flickr/IDV Solutions

The percentage of accidents involving alcohol varies widely by city.

New Year's Day is consistently one of the most dangerous days of the year for drivers. Not surprisingly, a unusually large percentage of car accidents tomorrow will involve alcohol -- in 2009, alcohol played a role in 40 percent of fatal crashes, as opposed to 32 the rest of the year. 

But the geographic distribution of alcohol-related crashes, like their distribution across the calendar, varies widely. "A National Portrait of Drunk Driving," a map created by John Nelson at IDV Solutions' UX Blog, makes this conclusion visually obvious.

Using data from Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), Nelson mapped ten full years of accidents (2001-2010) on a hexagonal mesh of the United States. Each hexagon represents data collected from a roughly identical space with no regard to administrative boundaries. Their color indicates the percentage of accidents that involved alcohol. (The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has all data from 1975 onward available for download, for all you data hounds out there.)

Larger hexagons correspond to more accidents -- in the densest areas, the hexagons swell to form a flush surface, whereas in rural areas, the shapes are much smaller. The darker the hexagon, the higher the percentage of crashes involving alcohol.

Above, the percentage of deadly crashes involving intoxication by color. Below, the map:

Evidently, the distribution of hexagons closely resembles the distribution of dots in Brandon Martin-Anderson's Census Dot Map. The more people, the more car crashes. 

But the color of accidents is not at all uniform. As Nelson points out, New York City has a very low percentage of alcohol-related accidents, not surprisingly. So do Salt Lake City, Memphis, and Miami (and Detroit and Los Angeles, which are captured on the UX Blog):

Other areas, particularly around clusters of cities, fare less well. The Bay Area and the Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Akron area have a much higher incidence of alcohol-related accidents:

Even in those areas, there are clusters of green on those areas best served by mass transit -- Pittsburgh, San Francisco. But urbanity is no guarantee that people will not drive while intoxicated. Just look at Chicago and Houston (with dishonorable mentions for Denver and St. Louis, pictured on the UX Blog):

Furthermore, just because an area doesn't have a densely settled population doesn't mean it can't have a large number of accidents involving intoxication. See South Carolina:

Explore other U.S. metros, and the full map, over at the IDV Solutions' UX Blog.

All images courtesy of IDV Solutions and John Nelson.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: A lone tourist in Barcelona, one of several global cities that have seen a massive crash in Airbnb bookings.
    Coronavirus

    Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus?

    The short-term rental market is reeling from the coronavirus-driven tourism collapse. Can the industry’s dominant player stage a comeback after lockdowns lift?

  2. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Equity

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

  3. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

  4. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  5. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

×