Data Surfer

Sites you need to see

With so many cars and people in California, you'd think this state would have the highest overall car insurance premiums. But that honor goes to Louisiana with an average annual premium of $2,510.87, according to a new national survey by California comes in at number five with an average cost of $1,774.41. What state has the cheapest rate? It's Maine with a measly $902.85.

The survey also looks at the most expensive car models to insure. Naturally, the ultra-luxury cars top the list. Number one is the Porsche 911 Carrera GT2 (6-cylinder, 2-door coupe) costing an annual average of $2,943.78. The least expensive? Mazda Tribute I (2WD, 4-door utility) at $1,070.25.

This web sites also provides an interactive database where you can see an average premium for a particular make, model and state. Or you can browse by vehicle type (cars, trucks, SUVs, etc.). Bear in mind this survey is based on a hypothetical driver: 40-year-old male who commutes 12 miles to work. 

Cell Phone Driving.jpg

You don't have to be a total transportation wonk to find something of interest in the Traffic Safety Legislation Tracking Database, a partnership of the National Council of State Legislatures and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The database is intended to provide up-to-date status on bills and chaptered laws introduced in the 50 states and District of Columbia. It covers 2007 thru 2010 legislation, which you can search by state, topic, keyword, year, status or sponsor.

The broad topic list includes: aggressive, distracted and impaired driving; school bus, motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian safety; senior and teen drivers; speed limits and other critical issues. With this online database you can quickly see which states have laws prohibiting, say, texting while driving. Or using cell phones. Pretty handy when you're travelling out of state.

Caption: New driver Brandi Eadie, 16, looks down at her cell phone to read a text message as she drives through a rubber-cone course in Seattle on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 to demonstrate the dangers of phone use while driving. (AP Photo/ Elaine Thompson)

Google recently released a cleaner version of its public transit maps database, which has grown to more than 450 cities worldwide.

Google Transit provides step-by-step directions for public transportation similar to what it does for travel by personal vehicle. You type in a starting address and destination, plus the date and time you want to leave. Google then tells you where and when to connect with buses and trains to reach your goal.

Northern California cities are pretty well represented in Google Transit. You'll find detailed maps for the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, Stockton, Santa Rosa, Redding and Rio Vista. The Sacramento region is covered, too, with mapping for Regional Transit, Roseville Transit, Unitrans and Yolobus.

highway2.jpgThere are 305 highway construction projects financed by the federal stimulus currently underway or completed in California. That's according to new data released by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association which estimates these road improvements have supported 35,184 jobs in the state. Their press release breaks down the number and value of the projects by congressional district.

Speaking of highway construction funded by the stimulus (i.e. the Recovery Act), the White House announced yesterday the release of a new online map that pinpoints specific projects across the country. This "Master Recovery Transportation Map" lets you zoom from a national view down to the street level to see road work in your region. The markers are color coded by improvement types (pavement, safety, bridge, etc). Click on a marker for a project description and dollar amount spent.

About a dozen projects are located within the Sacramento metropolitan area. Most of these are in the "Pavement Restoration and Rehabilitation" category.

[April 30, 2009, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger discusses the first highway project to be funded solely by the new U.S. stimulus law, near Fairfield Calif. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli.]

The Sacramento region is known to be fairly unsafe for pedestrians. Every so often the paper runs stories on tragic accidents, the latest being the hit-and-run death of a 4-year-old boy outside a North Sacramento school.

A new report, "Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths," ranks metropolitan areas for risk to pedestrians using recent stats on fatal accidents and the number of people who walk to work. The authors employ a "Pedestrian Danger Index" for each of 52 MSAs with over a million people. Turns out Sacramento is 22nd on the list with a PDI of 75.9. (Orlando, Fla. tops the list with an index of 221.5.)

As a state, California ranks second behind Hawaii in the highest average fatalities per 100,000 people aged 65 or older.

Nationally, the cost of retail gas has been dropping since its June high of $2.691 a gallon. The current price is $2.552, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration which conducts a weekly survey of both gasoline and diesel prices. The EIA website has historical U.S. data going back to 1990.

California also saw some relief from this year's runup of gas prices, falling to $3.140 from $3.153 last week. It's been a roller coaster these past 18 months with state prices rising to $4.588 in June 2008, plummeting to $1.738 in December, then climbing past $3 in August. You can see historical weekly California prices going back to 2000 here.

The immediate budget crisis tends to keep most of us from thinking about California's future problems. But at least one group, the Public Policy Institute of California, wants policymakers to remember the state's long-term planning challenges. They've prepared California 2025, a briefing kit summarizing data projections in eight key areas (budget, climate change, economy, education, population, transportation, water and workforce).

On the population front, California is projected to grow to nearly 50 million by 2025. The interior portions of the state will grow faster than coastal ones. The citizenry will continue to diversify with Latinos becoming the largest ethnic group. And the percentage of people over 65 will jump from 11 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2025.  

The New York Times has analyzed the federal stimulus money earmarked for some 5,274 transportation projects around the country. The paper concluded that although two-thirds of the nation's people live in cities and surrounding regions (with the worst roads and traffic jams), far less than two-thirds of the stimulus funding is going to metropolitan areas. In fact, the largest 100 MSAs will get less than half of the $26.6 billion allocated for bridges, highways and other transportation projects. is California government's web portal for reporting federal stimulus granted to the state. You can use an interactive map for tracking projects by type (education, energy, water, etc.) or geography (county, city, congressional district, etc.). Click on a "paddle" to see information on a specific project. You can also download data into a spreadsheet for further study. On the transportation front, there are 61 projects in the state totalling $2.6 billion. Without deeper analysis, it's difficult to know how much of the money is going to rural versus urban areas, but on the face of it, it seems more is going to less populated counties.


The fatal crash of a bus carrying French tourists near Soledad is the latest in a series of recent fatal bus accidents in northern California. The deaths have prompted calls for stronger regulation of the industry.

The U.S. Department of Transportation maintains detailed statistics on bus and large truck accidents through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. There are state-by-state numbers of fatal crashes and fatalities involving buses for the period 1994-2007. In 2007, 322 people died in 277 separate U.S. incidents. In California in 2007, 40 died in 36 incidents.

FMCSA also provides an interactive map which plots fatal bus accidents anywhere in the country (years 2003-2007). It has a zoom function that allows you to see exactly where the crash happened. Both the map and data are downloadable.


October 27, 2008
Long-term gas price data

GASPRICE.JPGNationally, the average price of regular gas tumbled nearly 53 cents in the past two weeks, hitting $2.78 on Friday, according to the latest Lundberg Survey. On Monday the average price dropped to $2.98 in the Sacramento region, though the $3 barrier had been broken at many service stations for several days.

AAA provides price data going back a year for the nation, state and metro areas. Included are charts showing the average price of retail and wholesale gas, as well as of crude oil. You can find 24-month charts of gasoline and diesel prices for the nation and multi-state regions on the web site of the federal Energy Information Administration, a rich source of statistics on all types of energy. The EIA also has data comparing the retail cost of gasoline in United States with other industrialized countries for the period 1990-2007.

Closer to home, there are two good online places to find the cheapest gas in your neighborhood: AAA Gas Price Finder and Gas Buddy . Both let you search by zip code and will display a map pointing to individual service stations. Sacto Gas Prices lists the best prices in the region for the various grades of gasoline. 

About Data Surfer

It's all about information -- statistics, documents and data of all types that help us understand the world, make informed decisions and monitor government. It's about empowering citizens with tools and sources so they can conduct their own investigative research. This blog is a place to discuss information that's available on the Internet. What's relevant, useful, valid and accurate -- and what's not.

We know the Sacramento region is home to knowledgeable people who use online information in their respective fields. We want to hear from you. Please tell us what you think of the data we use in stories and post on The Bee's website. And share tips about online resources you think are valuable to this blog's readers. Post comments on this blog or contact Pete Basofin directly at

June 2010

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