Traffic Deaths Rise Sharply on Western Roads

The region is seeing higher rates of road deaths in part due to larger vehicles, high speed limits, and inadequate pedestrian infrastructure.

1 minute read

March 5, 2024, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Two-lane highway with solid yellow center line and one car driving away against backdrop of red rock formations in Nevada.

MaciejBledowski / Adobe Stock

Writing in High Country News, Jonathan Thompson outlines some of the unique causes of traffic deaths in the U.S. West, a region that sees more road fatalities than almost any other in the country besides the South. “While traffic deaths have been increasing nationwide alongside population growth, the West’s highways appear to be getting even deadlier over time, especially for pedestrians,” Thompson writes.

The regional causes of traffic deaths are diverse: “Indigenous people are twice as likely as white people to die on American highways, and the risk is even higher for people who are walking. Many drivers cannot afford larger cars that are safer for their occupants, leaving them at the mercy of ever larger and more costly SUVs. At the same time, low-income neighborhoods are less likely to have sidewalks, adequate street lighting or traffic-calming devices, making pedestrians more vulnerable.”

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