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Too many bicyclists are still dying on our roads
In new preliminary data released by NHTSA, traffic fatalities fell by an estimated 1% in 2018. At that rate of improvement, the U.S. will reach the goal of zero traffic deaths sometime after the year 2100.
While a modest improvement in overall traffic safety is good, the 2018 estimates unfortunately show continued increases in traffic deaths for people biking and walking. People biking experienced the largest increase in fatalities of all road users, with an estimated 10% increase in fatalities in 2018. This would make 2018 the deadliest year for people biking since 1988.
Addressing the safety of our roadways for all people, especially people who bike and walk, is not an unsolvable issue. The United States stands out among other developed countries for its poor traffic safety record and its inability to take actions to make roadways safer. During the same period when pedestrian fatalities in the US increased by roughly 30%, they were decreasing by 36% in the European Union. Between 2000 and 2013, the US had the smallest reduction in traffic fatalities of 10 high-income countries reviewed by the CDC – and US traffic fatalities have increased by roughly 10% since 2013. As we've noted before, states report spending less than 1% of their federal highway safety funds on making roads less dangerous for us.
To address the safety of people biking and walking, the United States needs to get serious about addressing traffic safety – and that begins by prioritizing the safety of the most vulnerable people. By focusing on the safety of the most vulnerable – people who walk, people who bike, people who use wheelchairs, people who are older – the overall transportation system will be safer for all.
The good news is that there are many things that people can do today to help make tangible gains for road safety in the United States:
- You can contact your Representative and ask them to co-sponsor the SAFE Streets Act – which will target federal funding to safety improvements for people who bike and walk.
- You can contact your Senator and ask them to co-sponsor the Transportation Alternatives Enhancement Act – which will increase federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and provide flexibility to localities grappling with traffic safety issues.
- You can use the data and discussions in the 2018 Benchmarking Report to show your community the actions being taken for vulnerable road users in other American states and cities.
- You can support transformative change by promoting a Bike New Deal or engaging your local officials in Vision Zero efforts
Getting serious about traffic safety is a paradigm shift. It has been about 75 years since fewer than 30,000 people have died on our nation’s roadways in a given year. We need bold action and leadership to change the patterns of planning, designing, building, and behaving that have led to this situation. At the core of the American problem with traffic deaths is prioritizing speed, traffic flow, and convenience for people using single occupancy vehicles. We need to value the experiences of everyone, starting with the most vulnerable, to make a lasting change and reclaim America’s leading role in traffic safety.