Traffic safety crisis marked by spike in hit-and-run deaths

April 12, 2022

On March 31, 2022 SafeTREC Researcher Julia Griswold commented on the steady rise of hit-and-run deaths in the last 15 years as a share of traffic deaths in anPedestrian crosswalk button near an intersection article, "Traffic safety crisis marked by spike in hit-and-run deaths" with CNN Business journalist Matt McFarland. This crisis was particularly dangerous for vulnerable road users, like people walking and biking. McFarland noted that in 2020, approximately 69.6% of hit-and-run deaths were either pedestrians or cyclists (vs. 61.1% in 2006); and one in four pedestrian deaths in 2020 was a hit-and-run.

"The [hit-and-run] statistics are bad. But it's all part of the larger problem of pedestrian safety. That's a crisis," Julia Griswold, SafeTREC Researcher told CNN Business. 

Factors behind the crisis & taking a Safe System approach

According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 38,824 people died on U.S. roads in 2020, a 6.8% increase compared to 2019. McFarland discussed potential factors identified by traffic safety experts behind this increase in traffic deaths noting that "the pandemic, speeding, impaired driving, and the nation's car-focused transportation system may all be factors." Robert Schneider, Associate Professor in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Department of Urban Planning (and former SafeTREC Postdoctoral Researcher) told CNN Business that the spike in hit-and-run deaths and traffic deaths could be tied to the decline in public transportation services in 2020. "Public transportation provides transport to people who should not be on the road, for example those who might be intoxicated or have suspended licenses" Schneider said. In cases in which an impaired driver opts to drive, "Transit would've been a safer mode for them and everybody else." 

CNN Business also spoke with Rebecca Sanders, founder of Safe Streets Research & Consulting (and former SafeTREC Postdoctoral Researcher) about the US Department of Transportation's release of the National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) which aims to center the Safe System approach to address this traffic safety crisis, an approach that emphasizes the responsibility of all actors in a system, including roadway engineers. "The engineer can't design something and say, 'I followed the book and therefore I don't have any responsibility after this,'" Rebecca Sanders told CNN Business.

Read the full story at CNN Business.

Photo credit: CNN Business.