Transportation Secretary Publishes a Plan to Cut Soaring Road Deaths
We seem to be reading more frequent reports of road deaths on the highways of Virginia and the United States as a whole. The perception that the highways are becoming more dangerous is backed up by statistics. Now the Transportation Secretary has published a national plan to reduce highway fatalities.
Pete Buttigieg said highway deaths could be slashed in the same way as the nation tackled fatalities in the workplace and food poisoning, the Washington Post reported.
Road Fatality Statistics
The size of the challenge is immense. States including Virginia saw a spike in road deaths in 2020, even though the COVID-19 pandemic restricted road traffic. That year, 38,680 people died on U.S. roads, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures.
Preliminary figures for 2021 point to a further increase in road deaths. Fatalities topped 20,000 in the first six months of 2021, an 18% jump over the same period in 2020. Buttigieg said the trend continued into the third quarter of 2021.
Highway fatalities outpace those in other transportation sectors. Of the 370,000 people who lost their lives in transportation-related incidents over the past decade, 94 percent died on the roads, the strategy document notes. The National Roadway Safety Strategy was released in late January.
“Right now, we face a crisis on our roadways. Almost 95 percent of our nation’s transportation deaths occur on America’s streets, roads, and highways, and they are on the rise,” Buttigieg states in the forward to the new report.
In Hampton Roads, we see evidence of the crisis on a daily basis. In late January, two girls aged 15 and 12 died in a three-vehicle crash on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We see the terrible injuries our clients suffer on the fast-moving highways of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake. We see the evidence when we represent families members of those who perished on the highways who are suing the careless, drunken, texting, or reckless driver who caused the loss of their loved one.
Taking Measures to Reduce Deaths
Buttigieg points out the status quo is unacceptable. He calls for a “coordinated effort with our stakeholders across the public sector, private sector, advocacy, and research communities” to reduce road deaths.
Highway deaths rose in Virginia in 2020. However, the state is far from the most dangerous in the nation. It has a roadway fatality rate of 0.97 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled compared to 1.12 in North Carolina and 1.73 in South Carolina, the worst state in the country for loss of life on the roads. The highest poverty counties, particularly in rural areas, typically see more road deaths.
The Transportation Secretary touted a zero deaths strategy in some locations. He said Hoboken in New Jersey has seen many years with zero deaths. The Washington Post noted the city has a “Vision Zero” plan that pulls data to identify hazards to vulnerable populations. The plan includes strategies to cut speeding and protect walkers and cyclists, among other changes.
Buttigieg said the U.S. should adopt measures that are working in places like Hoboken, having “as many communities as possible get to zero any given year, and then work so that each passing year, more communities and larger communities hit that mark.”
The strategy aims to reduce speeds and change driver behavior. It supports tying the work of transportation agencies that oversee highways, the trucking industry, and driver and car safety together while calling for the support of the private sector and state and local governments to push for a zero fatalities goal.
Contact a Lawyer to Learn More
As car accident attorneys, we see the terrible human cost of road crashes every day. It’s important to hold the drunken, distracted, and careless drivers to account for deaths and injuries. Please contact our experienced team at (757) 333-3333.