As more data begins to emerge, COVID-19’s impact on traffic crashes and severity is proving complicated. Collisions and fatalities have declined in many places with data available, though not everywhere. However, collision rates and injury and fatality rates appear to be up in a number of cities for both drivers and vulnerable pedestrians once you account for the significant drops in VMT, likely due to higher speeds made possible by less traffic.
Agencies that aspire to achieve zero traffic fatalities need to know where to invest for the biggest crash reductions. Advances in artificial intelligence are allowing DOTs to leverage their existing camera technology in order to extract large quantities of data that can then inform decisions about how to improve or control intersections. The city of Bellevue, WA, recently announced a plan to study footage from its traffic cameras in order to “analyze the correlation between past collisions” and near misses, according to a press release.
Although cars are getting safer, saving drivers and passengers from dying on our roads and highways, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths are increasing dramatically. The latest numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Traffic Safety Facts show that while overall 2018 traffic fatalities decreased about one percent compared to 2017, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased four and ten percent, respectively.
As cities commit to Vision Zero, they have started to examine intersections and roadway segments with high crash rates, serious injuries, and fatalities to pedestrians. What they have found is that a small percent of roadways account for a large portion of serious crashes. And crashes disproportionately affect certain populations.
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that red light camera programs are an effective deterrent to red light running. The IIHS study found that implementing red light cameras lowers the rate of fatal crashes at intersections that are remotely enforced, but the rate increases if they are turned off. More than half of the fatalities caused by red light runners are pedestrians, cyclists, other motorists, or passengers. The IIHS has also issued a checklist to help communities successfully implement red light cameras.
Autonomous vehicle technology has been touted as a boon to safety, avoiding or mitigating the majority of crashes that are due to human error. Now a new report attempts to put numbers to how many pedestrian crashes could have been avoided or mitigated, and the value of avoidance.
As more states legalize recreational use of marijuana, decision makers are seeking to understand the implications for safety and public policy. A number of recent studies have examined whether states that have legalized marijuana are seeing higher incidence of car crashes and road fatalities, with differing results. While some studies have found that marijuana use could double crash risk according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, others have found no link between legalization of the drug and crashes.
Crash data on reported collisions may not be telling the whole story about whether our streets are safe for bicyclists and pedestrians. A recent study revealed that crash data for road users may be significantly misinterpreting the actual level of safety that streets provide for bicyclists and pedestrians. Researchers set out to collect “near-miss incidents”— incidents when bicyclists or pedestrians barely avoid a collision with another road user.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made headlines last week for showing a decrease in Americans’ life expectancy in 2015—a reversal of a decades-long positive trend. One element of the brief report is of special interest to transportation practitioners: The population-adjusted “unintentional injury” rate jumped by 7 percent, passing chronic lower respiratory diseases to rank No. 3 as a cause of death. Causes of unintentional injuries include crashes, as well as drug overdoses, falls and other less-common mishaps.
A report released by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researcher Robert Schneider looks at crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists throughout Wisconsin from 2011-2013 to determine the conditions behind the most serious crashes, those resulting in fatalities and serious injuries. Schneider details the type of roadway, time of day, traffic controls, presence of bicycle or pedestrian facilities, and direction of travel for the parties involved. He also looked at age and gender and whether alcohol was involved.