Big Cities Are Safer Than Rural Counties

tractor fallen overeurekalertBack in the early 1990s, when I lived in the East Village, I would enjoy whiling away nights at the Loisaida bar, Safety in Numbers. The motivating idea behind the bar's name was that aspiring black-clad hipsters like me were supposed to be safer in that dangerous neighborhood when traveling in packs.

I love big cities the way that a kid who grew up on an Appalachian dairy farm can only do - with fierce devotion. A new study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine that has taken its title from my favorite poetry slam venue, "Safety in Numbers: Are Major Cities the Safest Places in the United States?" compares injury death rates between crowded big cities and rural solitude. Using data from 1999 to 2006, it turns out that with respect to dying from injuries people are much safer in Times Square than they are riding the range. The study reports:

The overall injury death rate increased with increasing rurality, and a significant difference between the injury death rate in the most rural compared with the most urban counties was identified (difference of 24.0 per 100,000 to 31.6 per 100,000)....

Despite public perception to the contrary, when all types of injuries are considered together, rural areas, not urban, bear a disproportionate amount of injury-related mortality risk in the United States. Although variability among urban areas clearly exists, when urban areas were considered as a group, risk of serious injury resulting in death was approximately 20% lower than in the most rural areas of the country. Although our findings support the belief that homicide rates and risk of homicide are significantly higher in urban areas compared with rural, we demonstrate that the magnitude of homicide-related deaths, even in urban areas, is outweighed by the magnitude of unintentional injury deaths, particularly those resulting from motor vehicles. In fact, the rate of unintentional injury death is more than 15 times that of homicide among the entire population, with the risk resting heavily in rural areas such that the risk of unintentional injury death is 40% higher in the most rural counties compared with the most urban.

I will note that the homicide rate in New York City has fallen by 80 percent since the 1990s, and in fact there were only 418 murders in 2012, the lowest total since record keeping began in the 1960s. The Big Apple is now practically an adult Disney World.

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  • ||

    That traktor shall live to pull another day!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Where is MNG when you need him?

  • Mainer2||

    I am still proud that I was the target of MNG 's tractor pull mock when I said I shop at Walmart.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    There's no sugarcoating it, that is not something every person can claim.

  • Drake||

    It is absolutely an adult Disney World. A completely fake place with incredibly high prices, producing nothing of value. I am unwilling to pay the admission charge / toll to get into either.

  • Scarcity||

    Wat? NYC produces nothing of value?

  • CE||

    I think he meant DC.

  • PapayaSF||

    So, Bailey, any predictions about NYC now that they've elected a pinko mayor? Many are predicting a return to Dinkins-era crime levels.

  • MJGreen||

    A lot of smart people that I respect are saying that, but I don't know exactly why. The only reason I've heard is that he'll end stop-and-frisk. That makes him "soft on crime," so we'll see more crime. Are we supposed to take that seriously?

  • wareagle||

    that's a misleading, isn't it? Sure, injuries in ruralville are likely to be more serious than those in a city. A car wreck is a bit more likely in places where folks have to drive themselves than in one where they walk or rely on mass transit. And gotta like the almost cavalier "oh, by the way" dismissal of higher homicide rates in urban areas, as in people should naturally be more wary of tractors and pickups than criminals.

  • H. ReardEn||

    Although our findings support the belief that homicide
    rates and risk of homicide are significantly higher in urban areas
    compared with rural, we demonstrate that the magnitude of
    homicide-related deaths, even in urban areas, is outweighed by
    the magnitude of unintentional injury deaths, particularly those
    resulting from motor vehicles.
    the risk of motor vehicle crash
    death in the most rural areas is 2 times that in the most urban areas.
    Factors likely to contribute to this elevated rural risk include speed
    of travel, increased risk taking, adherence to traffic laws, and
    distance to medical care.

    The authors fail to consider the difference in miles logged in autos!

    So cities are 'safer' because of their decreased risk related to transportation. I'm not seeing the big 'wow' here, or Bailey's motivation for posting this. Perhaps it's an argument for more trains!

  • GroundTruth||

    Read it again, and translate it into plain English: Since our findings don't prove what we wanted to say, we will now direct your eyes to a semi-related factoid.

    ******

    Duh, of course there are fewer accidental injuries in cities, cities are essentially a prison devoid of life of any sort. (Yeah, I'm biased towards very low population density areas.)

  • pan fried wylie||

    I guess the main difference is that the tractor isn't committing a crime against me when I'm crushed by it.

  • Swiss Servator, referendiffic!||

    That is what they want you to think!

    *looks around to see if any heavy machinery is listening*

  • Adam330||

    You're still dead at the end of the day though.

  • R C Dean||

    I would have been surprised if the "injury" rate in rural areas wasn't higher, just because of the kinds of work that people do in rural v. urban areas.

    Hard to hurt yourself making laps between your cubicle and the coffee maker. Hard not to hurt yourself farming.

  • Lord Humungus||

    or cutting down trees. And hunting.

  • So Conz Esq.||

    yep. oddly enough, doing man's work is more dangerous than doing woman's work.

  • Mainer2||

    Agree. I grew up in a small farm town. Men missing a hand or an arm was not a shocking sight.

  • ||

    I have spent half of my life tending timber. I walk all day with a backpack, a chainsaw, a rifle, a machete and a water jug. Those days are spent an hour from the nearest hospital. I spend that day not seeing another human being, and not being within earshot of one. If a snag falls on me, if I fall and break a leg, if a snake bit me, I would be very unlikely to receive any kind of assistance.

    I cut large trees (weeds like sweetgum and ironwood) with a chainsaw. I hike over rough ground. I chop endlessly with a very sharp blade. The woods are swampy and full of disease bearing parasites, wasps and hornets, water moccasins and copperheads, feral pigs, and the occasional pot grower.

    It is not surprising that I bear a much greater risk there than walking down the sidewalk in a metropolitan area. However, safety is not as high on my priority list as my liberty. I would much rather spend the day with the trees than being stopped and frisked by some goon in blue.

    You can have your cities Ron.

  • Lord Humungus||

    This. I have property further north. It's all small towns, very little police presence, and a whole bunch of freedom. Murder rates are so low that when it does rarely happen, the community is shocked.

  • ||

    Where is further north?

    Most of my property is in Catahoula parish Louisiana. Finest, fastest growing timber in the world.

  • Enough About Palin||

    I've been though there many times. Beautiful country.

  • Lord Humungus||

    north in the hand of Michigan. We call it "Heading North" or "Going North to the cabin"

  • PD Scott||

    I suspect that rural areas have a higher rate of injury related death precisely because medical care, especially trauma care, is generally so far away. If most of your "Golden Hour" is taken up waiting for an ambulance or riding in one, the odds against you go way up.

  • ||

    And likewise a decent part of the drop in city murder rates is improvements in trauma care.

  • ||

    water moccasins and copperheads

    Are these not the same thing? I grew up being told its the same snake, just two different names.

  • ||

    Nevermind, I was mixing up cottonmouth and copperhead.

    Carry on.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I love big cities the way that a kid who grew up on an Appalachian dairy farm can only do - with fierce devotion.

    Fitting that description, I have to disagree. I do love cities, but not that fiercely. Growing up on a dairy farm made me too accustomed to people minding their own fucking business to love cities unconditionally.

    Despite public perception to the contrary, when all types of injuries are considered together, rural areas, not urban, bear a disproportionate amount of injury-related mortality risk in the United States.

    This is pretty obvious. The public is stupid, though I'm not even convinced the idea that cities have more accidents is public perception (that cities have more crime is).

  • Ron Bailey||

    AD: Dairy farm = penitentiary without walls.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Maybe if your parents were awful, but otherwise a penitentiary with no guards doesn't really work. Can you even imagine someone trying to tell your dad how often the lawn needed to be mowed?

  • Jordan||

    That's nice, but it doesn't account for crimes like robbery, soda bans, etc. Also, the tractor gives me a choice of whether or not I interact with it.

  • R C Dean||

    If you correct for work-related injuries, I bet the spread goes way down, and can be attributed mostly if not entirely to (a) more driving and (b) further to get to a hospital.

    Not correcting for work-related injuries strikes me as a massive oversight (at best).

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    The closet in my underground bunker is really safe. Especially since I added the padding. But I usually go ahead and wear a helmet too, because you can't be too safe.

  • WC Varones||

    But death by Darwinian stunts a la Jackass is voluntary.

  • Ska||

    I was going to ask if there's a "Hold my beer and watch this" category.

  • Enough About Palin||

    Born in DC. Grew up in large cities. Currently live in the ghetto. I was in a road band in my twenties and nothing scared the shit out of me more than being in some rural location.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "Lived in a brownstone, lived in the ghetto;
    I've lived all over this town."

  • Enough About Palin||

    Used to cover that song, btw. But really, out in rural Nebraska or Montana is freaky. People disappear out there. I wonder what the per-capita rate of people going missing is for cities versus rural America.

  • CE||

    Going missing is a lot worse than turning up missing.

  • Killaz||

    The Big Apple is now practically an adult Disney World.

    One homicide in its entire 50+ history makes DW safer than the Vatican. I'd argue it is the world's most effective government, but given the competition, a few hundred non-voluntary and terribly organized states, that's not saying much. Bet Richard Branson could do it better.

  • ||

    Except I have some control over the risk of a fatal motor vehicle accident based on how safely I drive. I have no control over the risk of someone mugging me or shooting me in a drive-by, except to move away from an urban area.

  • CE||

    ...the rate of unintentional injury death is more than 15 times that of homicide among the entire population...

    Isn't it long past time to ban cars then?

  • ||

    And suburbs are safer then both.

    Yet planners will take this study and try to ram higher density down people throats claiming that suburban densities kill.

  • IT||

    Yep, nature and big machines are both unforgiving.

  • IT||

    Ron, why the city gloat?

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