Vision Zero Still a Pipe Dream as Road Deaths Continue to Climb

U.S. traffic fatalities hit a twenty-year peak in the first quarter of 2022.

Read Time: 2 minutes

August 19, 2022, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Pedestrians crossing a busy crosswalk on New York City street with tall buildings in background

Ryan DeBerardinis / Crosswalk in New York City

The first quarter of 2022 saw the highest number of traffic deaths in two decades, reports Daniel C. Vock for Route Fifty. Dashing hopes that the trend of rising fatalities would slow as the risky behaviors exacerbated by the pandemic subsided, data show that 9,540 people died on U.S. roads between January and March of 2022.

The trend isn’t uniform across the country. “The highest increases came in the mid-Atlantic region, which saw a 52% jump in deaths,” while road deaths in the far western states, the only region to see a decrease, declined by 11 percent.

According to Vock, “Safety advocates are growing increasingly frustrated that the issue has not sparked more concern – or at least a new approach – among policymakers at the federal, state and local levels.” Critics of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) say the federal agency could do more by regulating vehicle design to avoid blind spots, reining in Tesla and other carmakers who disingenuously promote autonomous features that lead to unsafe driving, and adjusting vehicle safety tests to include pedestrians and other people outside the car. 

While many safety efforts focus on driver behavior, some advocates say the government should take a stronger role in regulating the vehicles and infrastructure that can help keep people safe by applying a ‘safe systems’ approach. As Jessie Singer points out in her book of the same name, “there are no accidents.” To protect citizens, the government can, as Singer puts it, “Apply a harm-reduction model to every corner of the built environment.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2022 in Route Fifty

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