Even though traffic deaths have been rising for years in the United States, the same isn’t true in all countries. Japan is especially notable, with over five-times fewer per-capita fatalities. I recently read this fascinating Bloomberg article from last September that explores this.
The article is good at explaining the issues concisely. It identifies four main actions that Japan has taken to minimize traffic deaths:
- Invest in trains.
- Drive small cars.
- Remove on-street parking.
- Build cities safe for children.
The United States, in spite of every “vision zero” traffic death plan or public safety campaign, has taken the exact opposite course for each one. Only a tiny percentage of Americans have access to trains. Our cars keep getting bigger and more deadly. Parking has consumed most of our space. And our cities are so dangerous that letting children alone in them is often considered abuse.
So when US leadership tries to deflect the blame to other variables, such as smartphone use, it’s important to remember what real solutions to traffic deaths look like.