Matt Yglesias makes an interesting argument in his defense of raising kids in the cities:
No one wants their kids to grow up someplace dangerous, someplace where they’re likely to be killed, someplace like Washington, DC with the high murder rate, or Jerusalem with the suicide bombers. Nevertheless, the main killer of young people in the developed world is not murder (or terrorism) but automobiles. When you combine the murder rate with the car-related death rate, it turns out that American suburbs are more dangerous to children and teens than even the highest-crime cities.
The statistic is one that strikes me as implausible but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. I’ve been able to come up with some tangentially-connected stats on urban vs. rural driving. For example:
According to a US General Accounting Office report in July 2001, rural local roads had the highest rate of fatalities per vehicle mile traveled of all types of roadwaysÃ¢€”over six times that of urban interstates. In 1999, over 25,000 fatalities occurred on rural roads across the U.S.; and that figure was 2.5 times greater than the fatality rate from accidents on urban highways in areas like Las Vegas, Miami, St. Louis, and Cleveland.
This disparity could be due to a host of factors, though, including the prevalence of commercial traffic, and doesn’t tell us about the unit of measurement we’re interested in (deaths per capita) since it focuses on the roads rather than the drivers. Nor does it relate specifically to teenagers.
Everything else I found on teen driving fatalities that looked credible was related to driving while intoxicated and I found nothing on the urban-suburban issue. Does anyone out there have useful cites on this?
Update/Asides: This old Whos’s Counting piece by John Allen Paulos doesn’t actually answer the question but is amusing, as is most of his work, on the issue of how poor most of us are at risk assessment.
Eric Miller makes the amusing argument that people who are going to get drunk a lot should move to the cities since one can walk home rather than drive drunk.
Of course, if you really want to drive drunk–and young–you should consider moving to Canada.