Active transportation fatalities spike again

By Robbie Webber

Although cars are getting safer, saving drivers and passengers from dying on our roads and highways, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths are increasing dramatically. The latest numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Traffic Safety Facts show that while overall 2018 traffic fatalities decreased about one percent compared to 2017, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased four and ten percent, respectively.

Analysts have speculated that the increase in SUV sales, as well as the growing popularity of walking and biking, are both contributing to the rise in deaths among non-motorized users of the public right of way. The emphasis on improving the safety motor vehicle occupants has not extended to comparable improvements for those travelers not in vehicles. SUV and pickup sales surpassed those of sedans in 2014, and between 2013 and 2017 pedestrian fatalities involving SUVs went up 50 percent compared to 30 percent for passenger cars.

Both walking and bicycling have seen sharp spikes in fatalities since 2009, with pedestrian deaths going up 45 percent and bicyclist fatalities up 25 percent. Despite Vision Zero efforts in cities across the country, active transportation is getting more dangerous as roadway design continues to be inadequate for those walking and biking.

Fewer overall traffic fatalities is good news, but the alarming rise in deaths for those most vulnerable on the road also needs to be addressed.

Robbie Webber is a Senior Associate at SSTI.