Why Are U.S. Roads So Deadly?

Despite an abundance of Vision Zero pledges, U.S. roads remain some of the most dangerous in the developed world.

1 minute read

November 30, 2022, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


View of large black SUV from behind with blurred small child on bicycle wearing helmet riding in front of car

Room 76 / SUV

Writing in the New York Times, Emily Badger and Alicia Parlapiano examine why road deaths in the United States continue to diverge from other developed countries, where traffic fatalities are on the decline. 

“In 2020, as car travel plummeted around the world, traffic fatalities broadly fell as well. But in the U.S., the opposite happened,” the authors write. “Much of the familiar explanation for America’s road safety record lies with a transportation system primarily designed to move cars quickly, not to move people safely.” But there are other factors. The article outlines other reasons that converge to make U.S. roads so deadly. 

In the 1990s, safety innovations made cars safer around the world. But as the article points out, “as cars grew safer for the people inside them, the U.S. didn’t progress as other countries did to prioritizing the safety of people outside them.” While other countries prioritized pedestrian and cyclist safety, the United States ignored non-drivers in safety tests and infrastructure projects. 

More recently, “The pandemic made more apparent how much American infrastructure contributes to dangerous conditions, in ways that can’t be easily explained by other factors.”

Polly Trottenberg, former New York City’s transportation commissioner, says a stronger sense of urgency is needed to make the necessary changes. “We need to change the culture that accepts this level of death and injury.”

Sunday, November 27, 2022 in The New York Times

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