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'Don't drink and ride': Improving subway safety
Date:12/16/2008

December 16, 2008 -- Structural interventions and public safety messages may be the most effective ways to prevent subway fatalities and improve the overall safety of New York City subway systems, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Subway safety is important because even though subway transit is a relatively safe mode of transportation, it has the highest fatality rate of all forms of mass transit in the U.S. The paper, "Epidemiology of Subway-Related Fatalities in New York City," is published in the November 2008 edition of the Journal of Safety Research.

To characterize subway-related fatalities and identify opportunities for risk reduction, the Mailman School researchers reviewed files from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City (OCME) for all NYC subway-related deaths between the years 1990-2003. During that time, there were 668 subway-related fatalities. Of these, 10 (1.5%) were homicides, 343 (51.3%) were suicides, and 315 (47.2%) were accidental (unintentional) deaths. The majority (84%) of all subway fatality victims were male, and the largest proportion (26.5%) of victims were between 35-44 years of ages. More subway-related fatalities occurred in Manhattan (43.1%) than in any other borough.

Unintentional subway fatalities may result from a variety of adverse events, such as incursions onto the tracks. Passengers may purposefully jump onto tracks to retrieve dropped personal items, or accidentally fall onto the tracks through missteps, sudden illness, or lack of supervision of children. Thrill-seeking behaviors ("subway surfing") of youth may also result in fatalities.

"An interesting finding of the study was the relationship between alcohol intoxication and unintentional subway fatalities; 46% of all accidental subway-fatality victims had a positive toxicological screen for alcohol. This is significantly higher than the average rate reporte
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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