After years of declines, traffic fatalities* are rising again.
For decades, seat belt laws and improved vehicle safety features helped to contribute to roadway safety. In 2020, for the first time in years, roadway deaths increased, despite there being fewer cars on the roads due to pandemic lockdowns. Some experts believe with fewer cars on the roads, drivers began driving more recklessly and aggressively. In 2020, nearly 38,700 people died in crashes, an increase of seven percent over the year before. In 2021, roadway deaths continued to increase.
Community planners and governments have been taking a closer look at traffic deaths and creating plans to reduce them.
Reducing traffic deaths with “Vision Zero” and the Safe System approach
More than 40 U.S. communities have adopted policies based on the Safe System approach, and in January the U.S. Department of Transportation released a new policy known as the National Roadway Safety Strategy. Here in our community, the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has created “Destination Zero” in an effort to reduce fatal and serious injury crashes.
According to the Destination Zero action plan, “Traffic crashes are a serious health threat to residents and visitors of Sarasota and Manatee counties. Every year, our community members are subject to approximately 20,000 traffic crashes on our streets, taking the lives of about 110 people and seriously injuring 1,300 more. Lives lost and serious injuries are unnecessary traumas for those involved and their families and friends. Preventing people from dying or being seriously injured on our streets should be our top priority.”
Principles of the Safe System approach
- Safe road users—encourage those who use our roads to act safely and responsibly, and create conditions that help them reach their destination unharmed.
- Safe vehicles—design and regulate vehicles to expand vehicle features and systems which help prevent crashes and minimize their impact.
- Safe speeds—promote safer speeds on all roads, allowing for additional time to avoid crashes and reducing the force of impact if a crash occurs.
- Safe roads—design roadway systems to mitigate human error as well as encourage safer behaviors.
- Post-crash care—improve the availability and speed of emergency care if a crash occurs, as well as manage the crash site to prevent additional crashes.
What you can do to prevent traffic deaths
While some of these actions must take place on the community level, there are a few things you as an individual can do to help prevent traffic accidents and fatalities. Proponents of the Safe System approach note that this will require a shift to a more safety-minded culture for everyone.
- Slow down. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “An increase in speed is directly related both to the likelihood of a crash occurring and to the severity of the consequences of the crash.” Just a one-percent increase in speed results in a four-percent increase in fatal crash risk.
- Do not drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Wear your seat belt and insist your passengers do the same.
- Secure children in proper child restraints (car seats or booster seats). Doing so “can lead to a 60 percent reduction in deaths.” (WHO)
- Wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.
- Put your phone away. Using a mobile phone slows reaction times, and being distracted makes it harder to stay in your own lane as well as maintain correct following distances.
If we all work together, we can reduce the number of traffic deaths in our community. (As a bonus, these safe driving tips will also help you avoid tickets and non-fatal crashes, too, which can help you keep your car insurance rates down.)
If you need car insurance
As an independent insurance agency, Lakewood Financial specializes in helping you find the best coverage for the best possible rate. We’ve been helping our neighbors in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota, Bradenton, and surrounding areas since 2003 and we’d love to help you. Please call Lakewood Financial at 941-747-4600, or if you prefer to contact us online, please click here.
*Traffic fatalities include those from vehicle-on-vehicle crashes, as well as collisions with pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.