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.
As noted in a previous SSTI post, the rise of SUVs and other light trucks as personal vehicles has been identified as a contributing factor to the startling rise in pedestrian fatalities since 2009. Researchers, auto makers, and regulatory agencies have known for years about this increased risk to pedestrians, but disagree about how to mitigate the dangers. In an in-depth but very readable article, the Detroit Free Press and USA Today outlined the consequences of increasing popularity of light trucks as personal vehicles and looked at the industry and government responses, both within the U.S. and in Europe.
Phoenix has an exceptionally high rate of pedestrian fatalities compared to the rest of the country. It looked like the city was ready to tackle this problem, with a city staff naming 11 intersections and neighborhoods to study that had poor and unsafe pedestrian conditions. However, the citizen committee named to guide passage of a design guide to make the streets safer has become so frustrated with the lack of progress that they have quit en masse. What have other cities done when they have found themselves with a mounting pedestrian fatality rate and a reputation as a dangerous place to walk?
A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calls out a variety of factors responsible for the shocking surge in pedestrian fatalities between 2009 and 2016—up 46 percent and the most deaths since 1990. They called out the increased use of SUVs as personal vehicles, lack of convenient and safe crossings, poor roadway lighting and inadequate headlights, excessive speed, and a lack of speed enforcement. Pedestrian fatalities have risen much faster than overall traffic deaths, which only increased by 11 percent during the same period. Pedestrians now account for 16 percent of all traffic deaths.
Another pedestrian fatality happened about two miles from SSTI Central when a car traveling over 100 mph hit a couple walking on the sidewalk along an urban boulevard. It is just one of some 40,000 traffic fatalities the United States is likely to see this year. SSTI has been interested in whether data now being provided to state DOTs in order to measure delay—the National Performance Management Research Data Set (NPMRDS)—might be applied to address speeding danger as well.