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.

Children killed in DUI crashes likely to be in car with drunk driver

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children under 15 years of age, and drunk driving is involved in about one-fifth of these crashes. However, contrary to common perception, the child is likely to be riding in the same car as the drunk driver, and the rate of these crashes varies considerably across the country. A new study in Pediatrics looks at the variation by state.

What’s stopping automated speed enforcement?

Automated speed enforcement systems have proven effective in U.S. cities, but despite the proven safety benefits of ASE and its prevalence internationally, it has been adopted in only 14 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. A recent case study of Washington, DC’s experience provides strong evidence for the safety benefits of speed enforcement cameras. A 2012 survey in Minnesota found that a slight majority of respondents supported the concept of ASE and over 80 percent supported the use of ASE in construction and survey zones. So what’s stopping increased adoption?

Can the United States achieve zero road fatalities?

In 1997, the Swedish parliament wrote into law a “Vision Zero” plan with the goal of completely eliminating road fatalities and injuries. They have been quite successful, with a road fatality rate per 100,000 population about half of that of the European Union and one quarter the rate in the U.S. Could the Swedish approach work in the U.S., which has also experienced a trend of decreasing road fatalities although not to the extent of other developed countries around the world? Some cities are certainly trying.

Rise in 2012 pedestrian-bicycle traffic deaths prompts call for safety metrics

Even as fatalities of drivers and passengers in private autos continue to decrease, there has been a steep rise in deaths of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. The rise in pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities led Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, a consistent advocate for bicycling and walking, to introduce H.R. 3494, a bill to require states to set separate safety standards for motorized and non-motorized transportation. While fatalities for pedestrians and bicyclists now make up a higher percentage of roadway fatalities, only 1 percent of federal safety funding is devoted to pedestrians and bicyclists, despite the continued rise in bicycling for transportation.