Hit-and-run crashes are on the rise

Hit-and–run fatal crashes are increasing in the United States, and most victims are pedestrians and bicyclists. We don’t entirely know why these crashes are increasing, because studies are limited, and data regarding the characteristics of drivers and victims is not extensive. Many hit-and-run drivers get away. Witnesses may not be present. But after analyzing federal data, however, researchers at the AAA Foundation have identified a trend and searched the literature for some potential contributing factors.

Pedestrian deaths are a systemic problem in the U.S.

Pedestrian deaths hovered around 6,000 in 2017, according to a new report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. That’s a slight drop from the previous year but still 45 percent higher than in 2009. Media reports have hyped a handful of theories to explain the recent uptick—namely, distracted cell phone use and marijuana legalization—but years of data from across the U.S. and abroad points to one clear trend. The more we design our communities mainly around the automobile, the more we drive, and the more dangerous roads become.

Report calls for a Safe Systems approach to reduce fatalities

A new report from the World Research Institute finds that the most effective way to prevent traffic deaths is a systemic approach that shifts responsibility away from the drivers and other road users to those responsible for roadway planning and designing, land use mix, providing mobility options, and enforcement of traffic laws. Analysis in 53 countries found that those that have taken a “Safe System” approach have achieved both the lowest rates of fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants and the greatest reduction in fatality levels over the past 20 years.

Report calls for a Safe Systems approach to reduce fatalities

A new report from the World Research Institute finds that the most effective way to prevent traffic deaths is a systemic approach that shifts responsibility away from the drivers and other road users to those responsible for roadway planning and designing, land use mix, providing mobility options, and enforcement of traffic laws. Analysis in 53 countries found that those that have taken a “Safe System” approach have achieved both the lowest rates of fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants and the greatest reduction in fatality levels over the past 20 years.

International perspective: Road safety, design, and alcohol consumption

A pair of international studies from Australia and the European Union examined roadway safety. A number of factors help explain why Australia’s traffic fatality rate is less than half of the U.S. rate. And strict blood alcohol content limits can reduce fatalities but must be coupled with supportive policies that reduce alcohol consumption overall.

Alcohol and gasoline prices: Their impact on traffic fatalities and the economy

Alcohol and gasoline prices are having unexpected impacts on traffic fatalities, as well as causing damage to economies. A study from an economics professor at Southern University and A&M College in Louisiana explored the relationship between per capita alcohol consumption and traffic fatalities, as well as the relationship between increased gasoline prices and traffic fatalities among young drivers (age 15–24).

Road fatalities are disproportionate across both racial/ethnic and rural/urban lines

Recent research examines equity in road fatalities and finds significant disparities across racial/ethnic, income, and geographic lines. The researchers geocoded and analyzed crashes both in terms of where the crash occurred and the home zip code of the driver, a departure from previous roadway safety research that has focused exclusively on the crash locations. The findings of the research have significant equity implications.

Unpacking the rise in traffic deaths

Traffic deaths shot up for the second straight year in 2016, according to recent estimates from the National Safety Council. To make better sense of what drove the increase in deaths, we compiled FARS data through 2015—the first year of the recent spike—and separated crashes by type. What does this all tell us? To begin with, there’s no silver bullet for improving road safety, short of reducing the amount we drive. Regulations, enforcement, and education aimed at young drivers and distracted driving could have a substantial impact if they are effective. But additional responsibility falls on road designers.

Crash fatalities climbing faster than VMT

Recent data indicate that the total number of traffic deaths in the U.S. in 2016 will be significantly higher than in 2015. The growth in fatalities represents an increasing death rate relative to population and miles traveled. The most striking increase occurred in the South Gulf region. Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths have been increasing even more rapidly. Untangling the causes behind the increasing number of road deaths overall, as well as bicycle and pedestrian deaths specifically, is difficult. Whatever the cause, traffic safety, particularly for vulnerable road users, is an increasingly pressing issue.