Alcohol-related Traffic Fatalities

Earlier this year the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended changes in the current blood alcohol limits to reduce youth drunk driving. The NTSB wants the limit dropped/increased from 0.08 to 0.05. Fun side note, technically, the NTSB needs to have the states enact this on their own accord because such limits are not federal power. Instead, the federal government uses the threat of witholding federal transport money as a means of urging states to comply.

Anyway, the New York Times took a look at the data on fatal crashes and blood alcohol in two heat charts. The first looks at the ages of drivers. The youth problem is self-evident.

Alcohol-related traffic fatalities by age
Alcohol-related traffic fatalities by age

Toggling to time of day shows perhaps a more commonly thought pattern: drunk driving rises significantly after midnight.

Alcohol-related fatalities by time of day
Alcohol-related fatalities by time of day

In general I think the piece is very successful. In particular, the breakout or separation of the new limits shows in clear relief how important those three hundredths could be in lowering alcohol-related traffic fatalities. And as seems to be increasingly the case with at least the Times, the use of annotations makes the story told by the data far clearer.

Perhaps the only design quibble I have is the shape of the squares. The rounded corners create weird, little white gaps between cells. And especially in the darker fields, they distract me more so than small, thin borders otherwise would.

Credit for the piece goes to Alastair Dant, Hannah Fairfield, and Andrew W. Lehren.

Author: Brendan Barry

I am a graphic designer who focuses on information design. My day job? I am the data visualisation manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. (This blog is my something I do on my own time and does not represent the views of the Fed, blah blah blah legal stuff.) And with my main interest in information design—be it in the shape of clear charts, maps, diagrams, or wayfinding systems—I am fortunate that my day job focuses on data visualisation. Outside of work, I try to stay busy with personal design work. Away from the world of design, I enjoy cooking and reading and am interested in various subjects from history and geography to politics to science to the arts. And I allow all of them to influence my work.

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