2020 saw an unprecedented spike in traffic violence, and 2021 got even worse. Deaths among drivers, pedestrians, and bicycle riders all went up. Smart Cities Dive has a summary of the latest report.
- Traffic fatalities jumped 10.5% in 2021 from the prior year, according to an early estimate issued Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fatalities on urban roads rose 16%.
- NHTSA also estimated that 7,342 pedestrians were killed in traffic fatalities in 2021, a 13% increase over 2020’s already historically high number. Deaths among bicyclists were up 5% in that period.
The statistics are troubling on their own, but look even more unsettling when we put them in context of the bigger picture. In recent years, governments around the nation have pushed “vision zero” plans to eliminate traffic violence. Car manufacturers advertise their high safety ratings. Everyone, it seems, cares a lot about safety. But despite this nominal push for safety across the board, the opposite outcome is happening.
This isn’t the only apparent contradiction we’ve seen recently. In 2020, there was the pandemic traffic death paradox, where the number of cars on the road dropped, but the number of traffic deaths rose dramatically.
Our problem is not just that our existing safety programs haven’t gone far enough. Our car-centric streets are fundamentally hostile to human life. As long as our national and local governments keep prioritizing faster, bigger cars at the expense of every other option, then individual safety efforts simply don’t stand a chance. We need to re-prioritize humans by making people on foot central to our mobility infrastructure.