People on bikes are vulnerable and don’t need to be reminded

Late last month, the Texas DOT posted a message on X (formerly Twitter) urging cyclists to behave better. But this message garnered at least 250 frustrated responses. The echo chamber of X obviously is not a representative sample, but the backlash reflects real challenges that cyclists face every day. Unfortunately, people who bike—along with those who walk, take transit, or face other mobility issues—experience a world where most drivers do not follow the rules, which often puts them at a dangerous disadvantage.

Pedestrian deaths spike right after sunset

As pedestrian deaths continue to rise, it has become clear that most of these deaths happen at night. But a new study finds that the half hour after sunset is the most dangerous in the United States. This worrisome trend is exacerbated by the high-speed, multilane roads that predominate in the U.S. The solutions, in addition to improved visibility, are the same at night as they are during the day: policy, design, and behavior changes that encourage safer, slower driving. 

Speed cameras lower speeds and prevent crashes, new research confirms

The Safe System approach to preventing traffic deaths and serious injuries requires us to rethink every aspect of our transportation system, from road and vehicle design to our pervasive car culture. Many communities have found that automated traffic enforcement is one valuable step along the way. As more of these systems are deployed, researchers continue building knowledge about how they work and where they are most effective.  

American roads are not ready for massive electric vehicles

Electric vehicles are slowly gaining popularity, and many see them as the key to drastically cutting transportation emissions. Yet the growing weight and size of vehicles are presenting new challenges and serious safety concerns. One major issue is the enormous weight of popular EVs and the impact that these increasingly large vehicles will have on the country’s roads, bridges, and—as one new study points out—its guardrails.  

Narrow lanes are safer, but they can be extremely difficult to build

A study released by Johns Hopkins last November gained widespread attention for demonstrating that 9-foot lanes are often safer than wider lanes. The researchers note, however, that most state DOTs set minimum lane widths between 10 and 12 feet and require design exceptions for anything narrower. Even in Vermont, where 9-foot lanes are allowed, the researchers found they have not been implemented. Therefore, paving the way to narrow lanes means understanding all the factors that make them challenging in the first place. 

Vehicle hoods are now four inches taller and 22 percent more deadly for pedestrians

Vehicles keep getting larger and heavier. Increasing a vehicle’s size not only increases emissions, it also has important implications for pedestrian safety, increasing the risk of injury and death on the road. Many studies have looked at the predominant factors that heighten risk for pedestrians. A new study from the University of Hawaii analyzes both crash data and physical vehicle measurements, rather than focusing on vehicle types, to determine a leading factor in pedestrian death rates: the front-end height of a vehicle.  

Colorado takes new approach to setting speed limits

The research is clear, increased driver speeds lead to more dangerous roads. For example, increasing the state maximum speed limit by 5 mph results in an 8% increase in the fatality rate on interstates and freeways, and a 4% increase on other roads. Speed is even more dangerous for pedestrians; research shows that a person hit by a car traveling at 35 mph is five times more likely to die than a person hit by a car traveling at 20 mph. These facts highlight the important role speed limits play in creating safe streets, and is one of the reasons the Colorado DOT (CDOT) is rethinking how it determines appropriate limits.  

Transportation safety is a public health issue, and our current framework is part of the problem

Traditional transportation safety frameworks like the three Es (Engineering, Enforcement, and Education) are impeding strategies that will reduce traffic deaths and improve overall population health, says a new study. The study introduces the Safe Systems Pyramid, a framing of the Safe Systems approach designed to prioritize policies and programs that incorporate health principles into transportation decision making.  By combining public health efforts with transportation strategies and practices, the authors propose an alternative approach that moves away from identifying crash outcomes and toward addressing the causes of safety crises., the authors propose an alternative approach away from identifying crash outcomes and toward addressing the causes of safety crises. 

New Zealand and Australia can teach us how to keep pedestrians safe

Pedestrian traffic deaths in the U.S. are something of an outlier among high-income countries. While many other countries have decreased—or at least stabilized—the number of pedestrians killed annually, our numbers continue to climb. Responding to this crisis, the U.S. DOT recently adopted a Safe System approach. This represents an enormous shift away from a decades-long operating principle of evaluating the transportation system by its level of service for motor vehicles. FHWA dispatched a team to New Zealand and Australia, two countries that have had greater success incorporating this approach into the DNA of their transportation systems and operations, to learn from their experiences.