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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) yesterday released a new study that shows commuters can reduce their chances of being in an accident by 90 percent if they use public transit instead of cars.The study also found that transit-oriented communities are five times safer than automobile-centric communities due to a lower traffic casualty rate, APTA officials said in a media conference call.The study's results indicate that communities with public transit options can cut their crash risk in half even for people who don't use public transit. The study was prepared for APTA by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.APTA officials were joined by National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chair Bella Dinh-Zarr and the American Public Health Association's Associate Executive Director Susan Polan for a media call yesterday to discuss the studies results. The speakers noted that the number of U.S. auto-crash fatalities rose 7.2 percent to 35,092 in 2015, the largest increase since 1966."It is time we employ public transit as a traffic safety tool because it can dramatically reduce the crash risk for individuals as well as a community," said APTA Acting Chief Executive Officer and President Richard White. "While no mode of travel is risk free, the safety of public transit is striking when observing the number of fatalities that are a result of auto crashes."Auto deaths and injury rates tend to decline in communities when public transit ridership increases, according to the study. And while there are many reasons for the increase in the auto-crash fatality rate, one is due to distracted driving. Public transit can serve as an option for people who want to multitask while commuting to their destinations, said NTSB's Dinh-Zarr."We face the greatest annual increase in highway deaths in 50 years and public transportation is a tool to help keep high risk groups out of the driver's seat," she said, adding that public transit and ride-sharing also should be used to separate alcohol consumption and driving.APTA officials also made a pitch for more government help in maintaining transit systems' state of good repair."As this APTA report highlights, infrastructure investments that make public transportation more reliable and accessible have significant safety benefits across the multimodal transportation network," said Jeffrey Knueppel, general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.