For years, transportation consultant and writer Angie Schmitt has tried to pick apart why it works that way and how the U.S. could become a less car-centric and less dangerous place. In 2020 she published Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America, an examination of the toll that the nation’s auto-centric infrastructure takes on those who are not encased in steel and glass when they travel.
Schmitt found that even as reported rates of walking among Americans have been on the decline, pedestrian deaths have surged in recent years. Between 2009 and 2019, total driving miles increased by 10 percent but pedestrian deaths increased by 50 percent. In Europe, by contrast, they fell by 36 percent over the last decade. Since then, the U.S. toll has only grown worse.
Schmitt: Design is important, but I think we also need to change cars. We can go a lot of the way there just with better vehicle safety regulations. The RAND Corporation estimated we could be saving at least 10,000 lives a year, maybe 20,000, if we were requiring some existing vehicle technologies in all cars like automatic emergency braking. Or blind spot detection and alcohol ignition interlocks. A combination of things like that already exists, and we could save tens of thousands of lives. We’re just not doing it. There’s been so little attention paid, it’s been hard to generate political will.
Author(s): Jake Blumgart
Publication Date: 23 July 2021
Publication Site: Governing