Safety advocates have long sought modal parity in American road safety standards. As improving vehicle safety features make driving safer for vehicle occupants, lagging road design improvements and increasingly aggressive car design create hazards for everyone else. At long last, advocates say, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed changing the way it rates new cars to identify those that are the most dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists.
The total number of traffic deaths on U.S. roads might have finally leveled off following a concerning pandemic-related surge, according to early estimates. For people walking, however, the alarming rise in deaths for over a decade is not showing signs of slowing.
About 75% of all roads in the United States, around 3 million miles, are in rural areas and are vital for transporting goods and connecting communities. The likelihood that a car crash will result in death is higher in rural America, even with less than one fifth of the population living in these areas. 85,002 people were killed on rural roads between 2016 and 2020, and according to a new study published by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the risk of dying in a car crash was 62% higher on a rural road compared to an urban road for trips of the same length.
Federal crash data released just this past April confirms what earlier reports had already suggested: 2020 was the deadliest year for walking in the past three decades, marking a 50 percent increase in just 10 years. A new report analyzing the data calls out the most dangerous cities and states across the country, while leveraging emerging data sources to understand how increased walking may have contributed to pedestrian deaths during the unique pandemic conditions of 2020.
The death of a well-known cyclist in Phoenix, Arizona, persuaded the city DOT to scrap changes it had proposed for an essential local street, in favor of protected bike lanes. As the Phoenix New Times reported, the death of a cyclist and downtown ambassador in central Phoenix galvanized supporters to call for protected bike lanes in the area of the crash. The city Street Transportation Department moved away from installing lanes shared by drivers and bicyclists, to painted, buffered bicycle lanes, and, on some blocks, fully protected bike lanes.
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.
According to a recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in the past 25 years 37,000 additional people have died due to increased speed limits in the United States. Meanwhile, Canada is taking a very different approach to speed, as detailed in the April issue of ITE Journal, which is dedicated to safety through speed management.
Traffic fatalities held steady around 37,000 in 2017, following a 14 percent jump over the previous two years, and 2018 is on track for a similar number according to new data from NHTSA and the National Safety Council. Once again, this points to the most consistent cause of high death rates in the U.S.—the amount we drive.
Reporters from the Houston Chronicle looked at 16 years of national data for traffic fatalities, and they were shocked by the statistics for their area. Houston has the deadliest overall traffic safety record for the 12 largest metro areas studied, and ranks in the top half in all categories of crashes. They identify speeding as the principal factor in the region’s safety problems, although a number of factors combine to make the area deadly.
A new report by the International Transport Forum highlights how the United States is losing the battle to reduce traffic fatalities, while other countries improve their safety records. Out of 41 countries contributing to the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group, most reported a reduction in traffic fatalities between 2010 and 2016. The U.S. was in the small group that had an increase. And in an interview, Neil Arason from the British Columbia Ministry of Health discusses about why Canada has a better traffic safety record than the U.S.