USDOT vs. Traffic Deaths: the War Begins

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Traffic crashes kill tens of thousands of Americans every year.
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Fatalities on U.S. roadways are tragic, preventable, and, worst of all, rising. According to many reports, the last three years on the road have been far deadlier than ever before. As a result, the USDOT is now stepping up to help reduce traffic deaths across the country.

At the beginning of last year, the department introduced its National Roadway Safety Strategy. The strategy highlighted the multifaceted nature of the agency’s strategy, from roadway improvements to campaigning for behavioral improvements. The government’s goal is to eliminate traffic fatalities completely, which requires a sophisticated approach. One part of that approach is the USDOT’s Call to Action today.

In a press release, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asked various agencies and companies to commit to specific traffic safety actions. He highlighted some organizations that have already committed to taking action, like Uber and the Washington State Department of Transportation. Calling it a “national crisis,” Buttigieg called on everyone to do their part. And it will take the collaboration of all of us to deal with this problem.

USDOT Notes High Traffic Deaths Since 2019

For decades, traffic deaths in the United States had been steadily declining. However, 2020 reversed all of that progress. In 2020, the U.S. recorded its highest traffic death toll since 2007, at 38,824 deaths. While overall crashes were down in the pandemic year, fatalities were up around 7%.

Things got worse the next year. In 2021, the NHTSA estimates that we saw a staggering 42,915 traffic deaths. That represents an increase of more than 10% from the previous year, which was already quite high. And while the NHTSA thinks that traffic fatalities came down a bit in 2022, we have a long way to go before we reach the federal goal.

So what can we do to prevent people from dying on American roads? The USDOT will invest quite a bit of money into roadway improvements to help make roads safer. This will include improvements to visibility for night driving and better signage in places that need it, especially in rural America, where the likelihood of dying in a traffic accident is higher. Uber pledged money to discourage drunk and otherwise intoxicated driving. However, every driver in the country has to do their part to make these efforts really work. If we want to get to zero traffic fatalities, we have to change our behavior on the road.

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