Over 36,600 people died on US roadways in 2018 (the last year data is available), a decrease of 2.4 percent from 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled also decreased by 3.4 percent, from 1.17 in 2017 to 1.13 in 2018. The NHTSA says it is the lowest fatality rate since 2014.
That all sounds encouraging, there are fewer people dying on our roadways, and that should be a good thing. But if you take a closer look, it’s really only good news for those of us driving or riding in cars. Everyone else, especially vulnerable road users like pedestrians and bicyclists, is being killed at an alarming rate. The number of pedestrians killed — 6,283, an increase of 3.4 percent from the previous year. This is part of an alarming trend that finds roadway users outside of vehicles account for an increasing share of roadway fatalities. In 1999, 20% of fatalities were outside the vehicle (80% of were inside the vehicle). As of 2018, that share has increased to 34% (66% inside). The infographic below illustrates this disturbing trend.
While auto makers are rolling out more safety technology such as automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection, it has done little to protect the pedestrian. These statistics highlight the inadequacies in our infrastructure where pedestrians are not appropriately protected from a fast-moving vehicle. This is one of the many reasons that SWTrails is working to improve pedestrian conditions in SW Portland. Of 280 miles of streets in SW Portland, only 25% have sidewalks. A portion of our January monthly hike was along Scholls Ferry Road, and gave hikers an idea of how dangerous our roads can be for pedestrians.
A bipartisan coalition in Congress, led by Oregon Representative Earl Blumenaur, introduced a bill that would make federal funding available to cities for Vision Zero projects aimed at reducing the number of traffic fatalities to zero. However, it’s unclear what can actually get passed and signed into law by the president given the polarized environment. “The Vision Zero Act will allow federal funding to aid in reducing preventable traffic fatalities that are devastating communities across the country”. Blumenaur said in a statement.
SW PDX has 280 miles of streets, but 210 miles have no sidewalks. Is this SAFE for our community?