The latest Dangerous by Design report from Smart Growth America has some interesting statistics about road deaths. This 2022 report differs from previous reports because it captures the behaviours of people during a pandemic. People walked more and drove less, but there were more road deaths. The report examines why.
“Seeing driving go down while deaths went up should call into question the long-held belief that traffic fatalities are inextricably linked to the amount of driving.”
Conventional wisdom among policymakers and transportation professionals is that traffic fatalities are inextricably linked to the amount of driving. But the decrease in driving during the pandemic meant less congestion and a significant increase in speeds. Therefore more people were killed. Consequently, speed is the key factor.
Smart Growth America claims that too many transportation agencies and decision makers have been “asleep at the switch”. Their incremental changes to improve safety have not made any positive difference overall.
Those in power, “will have to unwind the deeply embedded, invisible yet powerful emphasis on speed, which is completely incompatible with safety.”
The Dangerous by Design 2022 report has several recommendations in terms of policy and design. The guest supplements provide practical experience and add depth to the report. The bottom line of the report is that we have to choose between speed and safety.
Walking and wheeling
The report has a sidebar about “walking” and inclusive language. Of course, some people cannot walk and that is why the term “pedestrian” is used throughout. People using mobility devices are considered pedestrians. However, they are not separated from people using other devices such as skateboards. Consequently, data are difficult to assess in terms of people with disability.
An engineer’s perspective
Charles Marohn writes in a guest supplement that engineers start the process by using the values of their profession. They don’t stop to consider their values might be questioned by others. It’s about standard practice. He says no-one asks questions about speed in proposed road and street designs. Engineers might claim they are not in control of how fast people drive, but Marohn questions this “excuse”. He believes they have a duty to consider it.