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.
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.