US DOT Promises National Safe Systems Approach After Historic Death Surge

Headlines are quick hits from media outlets from Missouri and around the world. Follow the headline link for the full story. The source of this headline says:

The federal Department of Transportation is talking about radically changing federal roadway safety policy after new stats showed the largest six-month increase in roadway fatalities ever recorded by the agency.

A a shocking 18.4-percent more people died on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period last year — a death toll that represents roughly 20,160 lives lost and innumerable bereaved families, according to early estimates released on Thursday by the US DOT. The department did not reveal how many vulnerable road users were killed in that surge, but if trends mirror the historic 22-percent spike in pedestrian fatalities between 2019 and 2020, advocates fear it may have been one of the deadliest years ever for people outside motor vehicles, too.

New research that accompanied the estimates suggests that the surge was largely attributable to increased rates of speeding, which spiked on quarantine-emptied roads but remained endemic even as Americans returned to their driving commutes. Experts believe that the rise of remote work may have permanently shifted U.S. travel patterns, softening rush-hour gridlock but spreading faster-than-usual motorist traffic throughout the day.

MoBikeFed comment: Anyone who has been out on the roads and streets has noticed a marked increased in very fast, dangerous driving since the start of the pandemic.

The increase in traffic injuries and fatalities was the predictable result of this change in behavior.

For 2021 the U.S. is on track for more than 40,000 annual traffic fatalities - a number not seen since 2007.

In the early 2010s, annual traffic fatalities were as low as the low 30,000s - a huge improvement over the 2000s, which saw annual fatalities as high as 43,510.

Unless some large a much-needed changes are made, we are headed back to the same high injury and fatality rates we saw in the 2000s.

One change however: The percentage of injuries and fatalities among vulnerable road users - people who bicycle, walk, use public transit, and so on - has steadily increased as a percentage of all injuries and fatalities over the past 10 years or so.

Put both of these trends together, and clearly some positive steps need to be taken to turn these trends around. We will see what the US DOT has in mind.

One positive change in the recent federal Bipartisan Transportation Funding Bill & multi-year federal transportation reauthorization, is that pedestrian and bicycle safety will be getting a larger share of available federal safety funding.

If that money is well spent, it could make a real, positive difference.

Making more federal safety funding available for pedestrian and bicycle safety projects has been a multi-year priority at the National Bike Summit. MoBikeFed and other organizations attending the National Bike Summit have talked about this issues multiple times with every Missouri Congressional Office.

It is good to see some positive progress on this issue - though undoubtedly, more will be needed given current trends.

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