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New cars are supposed to be getting safer. So why are fatalities on the rise?

by Chloe Baker
3 comments
Roadway Fatalities

The recent surge in roadway fatalities in the United States, despite advancements in vehicle safety, is a concerning trend that demands attention. This issue is exemplified by the tragic case of Alyssa Milligan, a young physical therapy student in Tennessee, who lost her life in a cycling accident involving a pickup truck. While government test data indicates that vehicles have become safer, the overall number of car-related fatalities has been on the rise over the past decade, with pedestrians and cyclists experiencing a staggering 60% increase in fatalities between 2011 and 2022.

One significant factor contributing to this troubling trend is the growing popularity of SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans, which accounted for a substantial 78% of new vehicle sales in 2022. However, the existing safety ratings in the U.S. primarily focus on the well-being of individuals inside the vehicle, neglecting the safety of those outside. To address this issue, the National Association of City Transportation Officials is leading an initiative to include the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in the 5-star safety ratings for vehicles.

Jessica Cicchino, the Vice President of Research at the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, highlights the impact of larger vehicles like SUVs and pickups in pedestrian and cyclist accidents. Studies have consistently shown that these larger vehicles are more likely to cause severe injuries or fatalities when involved in crashes, primarily due to their higher probability of striking vital areas like the head and vital organs. Additionally, the design of these vehicles can create visibility challenges, particularly in left-turn crashes at intersections.

The problem of blind spots is exacerbated by the need to reinforce roof pillars for rollover safety, reducing outward visibility. Consumer Reports found that high hoods in vehicles obstruct driver views of pedestrians, while a recent report from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center highlighted the increasing blind zones in SUVs and pickups, contributing to fatal ‘frontover’ accidents where individuals are run over by slow-moving vehicles.

Despite advancements in vehicle safety, the current situation is alarming. Fatal crashes in the U.S. had been decreasing for years, reaching a low in 2011. However, in 2022, fatal crash estimates increased by a troubling 43%, reaching 42,795, partially due to factors such as speeding, drunk driving, and decreased seatbelt usage. Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities also saw a shocking 64% increase since 2011, reaching an estimated 8,413 in 2022.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed new pedestrian crash avoidance tests, but these remain voluntary and are not incorporated into the 5-star rating system. Advocates, like the National Association of City Transportation Officials, are pushing for mandatory pedestrian safety testing to ensure vehicles prioritize the safety of all road users.

The tragic experiences of individuals like Jessica Hart, who lost her daughter in a pedestrian accident, highlight the urgency of addressing this issue. Hart’s petition on Change.org calls for the inclusion of a vehicle’s risk to pedestrians in the 5-star rating system, gaining significant support.

Manufacturers are also taking steps to improve pedestrian safety. General Motors, for instance, equips nearly all its new vehicles with automatic emergency braking and enhanced night vision systems to detect pedestrians, particularly during nighttime, when most fatal accidents occur.

In conclusion, the rising fatalities on U.S. roadways, particularly among pedestrians and cyclists, demand comprehensive solutions. While vehicle safety technology plays a crucial role, addressing this issue also requires infrastructure improvements, effective speed limit enforcement, and potential changes to vehicle design. Prioritizing the safety of all road users is essential to reversing this troubling trend and preventing further loss of life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Roadway Fatalities

What is the main concern discussed in this text?

The main concern discussed in this text is the increasing number of roadway fatalities in the United States, despite advancements in vehicle safety.

How have pedestrian and cyclist fatalities been affected in recent years?

Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities have seen a significant increase, rising by over 60% between 2011 and 2022, which is a cause for concern.

What is contributing to the rise in fatalities?

The surge in sales of larger vehicles such as SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans, which accounted for 78% of new vehicle sales in 2022, is a significant contributing factor. Additionally, the existing safety ratings primarily focus on the safety of those inside vehicles, neglecting the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Are there efforts to address this issue?

Yes, there are ongoing efforts to address this issue. The National Association of City Transportation Officials is leading an initiative to include the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in vehicle safety ratings. Additionally, some manufacturers are equipping vehicles with features like automatic emergency braking to improve pedestrian safety.

What other factors have contributed to the increase in fatal crashes?

Factors such as speeding, drunk driving, decreased seatbelt usage, and limitations in vehicle design, including visibility issues and blind spots, have also contributed to the increase in fatal crashes.

What is being done to improve pedestrian safety?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed new pedestrian crash avoidance tests, although these remain voluntary and are not yet integrated into the 5-star rating system. Advocates are pushing for mandatory pedestrian safety testing to prioritize the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

What is the role of individuals like Jessica Hart in addressing this issue?

Individuals like Jessica Hart, who have experienced the loss of loved ones in pedestrian accidents, are advocating for safer streets, safer vehicles, and changes in driving habits to prevent further tragedies. Their advocacy plays a crucial role in raising awareness and driving change.

What should be the comprehensive approach to addressing rising roadway fatalities?

Addressing rising roadway fatalities requires a comprehensive approach, including improvements in vehicle safety technology, infrastructure enhancements, effective speed limit enforcement, and potential changes to vehicle design. Prioritizing the safety of all road users is essential to reverse this concerning trend and save lives.

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3 comments

JohnDoe43 September 26, 2023 - 8:44 am

wow, roads r gettin crazier. cars r safer but peeps outside gettin hurt bad, srsly sad.

Reply
SafetyAdvocate September 26, 2023 - 8:33 pm

gov needs 2 step up, make carmakers think ’bout pedestrians. we all share the roads!

Reply
CarEnthusiast23 September 27, 2023 - 12:29 am

suvs n pickups everywhr, not good for walkers n bikers. need safer streets for all.

Reply

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