Automobile travel imposes significant health risks. Traffic fatality rates, obesity and related illnesses such as diabetes, and total air pollution emissions tend to increase with per capita annual vehicle mileage. These risks help explain why United States residents have significantly shorter life spans than peer countries: average longevity is almost 1.5 years below the OECD average, despite spending about 2.5 times as much per capita on healthcare.
On Earth Day the US Department of Transportation released an important new, 605-page report, Transportation's Role in Reducing U.S.
The new report, Moving Cooler: Transportation Strategies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, written by Cambridge Systematics and sponsored by a variety of organizations, identifies several dozen transportation climate change emission reduction strategies, including improvements to efficient modes (walking, cycling and public transit), pricing reforms and smart growth land use policies.
Last year, California, passed SB 375, which requires regional governments to develop smart growth-oriented land use and transportation plans aimed at reducing VMT.
A paradigm shift is changing the way we think about transportation safety. In the past, traffic safety experts evaluated risk using distance-based units (traffic crashes and casualties per 100 million vehicle-miles or billion vehicle-kilometers), which ignores increases in vehicle traffic as a risk factor, and mobility management as a safety strategy. Yet, we now have overwhelming evidence that the amount people drive has a major impact on their chance of being injured or killed in a traffic accident. Here is a small portion of the evidence:
Many families move to sprawled, automobile-dependent suburbs because they want a safe place to raise their children. They are mistaken. A smart growth community is actually a much safer and healthier place to live overall.