Brian CooleyYour guide to a better future
Why US Roads Became So Dangerous and What to Do About It
The answers may lie mostly in France, of all places.
July 23, 2022 5:00 a.m. PT
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Thanks in large part to in-car safety tech like airbags, antilock brakes, stability control and, more recently, automatic emergency braking, US traffic fatalities have generally been on a long decline since 1970. The 52,000 such deaths recorded 52 years ago shrank to 36,000 in 2019 even as the US population and vehicle miles driven both increased dramatically. But 2020 and 2021 saw the biggest spike in over 50 years to a total of almost 43,000 per year, turning the roadway fatality clock back to 2002. In short, something’s not working as well as it did.
“We need regulations related to vehicle design and street design,” says Yonah Freemark, senior research associate at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit think tank focused on urban mobility and equity. “Those two play a really important role in how likely people are to get killed in streets, especially pedestrians (and cyclists) that are struck by cars.”
Speed is a major factor in nearly a third of all roadway deaths. A solution that would likely raise the hackles of most US drivers is the increased use of still-rare automatic speed cameras that issue tickets autonomously and create an enforcement presence that no number of human officers can hope to replicate. But US drivers have been sufficiently vocal in their opposition to such enforcement tech that there are studies looking at the numerous cities that have removed their similar red-light cameras.
UK speed cameras above four lanes of traffic
Speed cameras are common in several countries outside the US, often using technology that calculates average speed of a given vehicle based on the time stamps when it passes two or more placeson the roadway.
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Here’s an idea — speed bumps (i.e., sleeping policemen). Of course, that is unacceptable because the Gooferment doesn’t make any money out of them.