The high number of traffic accident victims baffles lawmakers

The high number of traffic accident victims baffles lawmakers

Traffic deaths rose 18% in California and 24% in Texas between 2019 and 2022, the latest full year available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Washington state, traffic deaths rose 38% last year compared to 2019, reaching their highest level in 30 years. In response, the state is considering expanding its use of speed cameras. State officials plan to visit Finland next month to learn how that country has used automated enforcement to reduce traffic deaths.

“When people see a sign that says ‘Surveillance camera ahead,’ they slow down,” Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said in a June interview with the Washington State Standard.

Nationally, most of the change in fatal crashes was caused by speeding, reckless driving and drug or alcohol use, according to Federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System data from 2019 to 2021, the most recent year available from this source.

Driver deaths rose even further in that time, by 21%. Pedestrian and motorcyclist deaths rose by 18%, and cyclist deaths by 12%.

Most of the increase from 2019 to 2022 occurred in cities, suburbs and small towns, with rural areas less affected, according to separate federal statistics on traffic fatalities maintained by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our driving behavior has not returned to normal. We have to learn how to share roads, and in the absence of that we have to have better engineering and more implementation there, unfortunately.

– Jonathan Adkins, CEO, Governors Highway Safety Association

Vermont, which has been struggling to fill police positions, saw the largest percentage increase of any state from 2019 to 2022, a 64% jump from 47 to 77 deaths. Other states with significant increases included Connecticut (54%), New Hampshire (47%), the District of Columbia (39%), and Washington state (38%).

Traffic crashes are the most common cause of death among people under 40 in Arkansas, Nebraska and Texas, according to a Stateline analysis in September.

The only states that saw traffic fatalities decrease from 2019 to 2022 were Wyoming (down 9%), Rhode Island (down 5%), North Dakota (down 3%), and Idaho (down 2%). However, those four states saw increases in the first six months of 2023, compared to 2022.

About half of the fatal crashes in Wyoming in 2022 were related to speeding or not wearing seat belts, a government report said.

Legislative efforts

In California, speed camera legislation has been thwarted in the past due to disagreements over fines and their impact on low-income residents. The compromise bill passed in October would allow community service in lieu of fines for low-income drivers enrolled in the pilot program, and would limit the placement of cameras on streets with speed problems in a few cities.

Other states should be similarly cautious, said Adkins, CEO of the Governors Safety Group.

“You have to be really careful with these camera programs. We don’t want the cameras to be a problem,” Adkins said. “They should only be in problem areas.”

Lawmakers in some states see the need for higher speed limits

Another state considering more speed cameras is Pennsylvania, where a pilot program has placed speed cameras on a Philadelphia street and in work zones statewide. A bill to make the program permanent and expand it within Philadelphia has passed the state House of Representatives and is now pending in a state Senate committee. Traffic deaths in Pennsylvania rose 12% from 2019 to 2022, according to a Stateline analysis.

In Philadelphia, speed cameras cut fatal crashes in half, saved an estimated 36 lives, and cut speeding by 95% after they were introduced in 2020 on a 14-mile stretch of Roosevelt Boulevard, a major artery, according to city records obtained by Stateline. . The cameras detected 8,305 speeding in February 2023 compared to 224,000 when they were first installed in June 2020.

States that have banned speed cameras and/or red light violations often cite drivers’ complaints about high fines and say it’s unfair for drivers to face charges from machines rather than police officers. The National Motorists Association, a driver advocacy group, opposes red light cameras and speed cameras, saying they violate due process rights.

Some Texas lawmakers called the cameras a violation of constitutional principles of the presumption of innocence and the right to confront the accused when they passed a bipartisan measure in 2019 banning photo enforcement. Other states with laws banning traffic cameras include Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a trade group.

The Missouri Supreme Court struck down red light cameras in St. Louis in 2015, saying they were unconstitutional because the cameras couldn’t document who was driving. However, in the face of rising deaths, the city announced in September that it was considering a new plan for speed and red light cameras that record drivers’ faces as well as license plates.

And in Iowa, where 19 cities and towns use speed cameras or red-light enforcement, Republican state Sen. Mike Klemich said he plans to reintroduce a bill next year that would limit fines and require revenue sharing with the state for a volunteer retirement fund. Workers are like firefighters. Cities must prove that cameras are placed in areas where they improve safety, Klemich said.

“This will require cities to provide some data to prove that it makes sense to put a camera in that specific location, and that it’s not just a problem or a source of revenue,” Klemich said. “We’re trying to make sure they’re looking first and foremost for the presence of law enforcement officers in the vehicles,” he added. Klemich sponsored a similar bill this year that did not get a vote.

Risky behaviour

As with the planned visit of Washington officials to Finland, states are increasingly finding inspiration in automated traffic control strategies in Europe that reduce fatalities, said Andy Hamre, director of policy and research at the Eno Center for Transportation, a nonprofit traffic policy think tank. This interest may help revive “Vision Zero” initiatives, which aim to completely eliminate traffic deaths, which have recently seen numbers trending in the wrong direction.

States are considering ending the right to red to address the rise in pedestrian deaths

“We leave a lot on the table in terms of traffic safety, compared to some places in Spain, France and Scandinavia. Vision Zero works. What doesn’t work is Vision Zero Lite, which is what we’ve seen,” Hamre said. States like Texas that have banned cameras Red lights and speed cameras “just took this tool away from local areas completely.”

Along with increased speeding and reckless driving, there has been a puzzling increase in the number of people killed in crashes who were not wearing seat belts. The number of drivers and passengers killed in unbelted crashes rose 24% between 2019 and 2021, according to data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The increases were highest for people ages 25 to 34, up 51%.

“There seems to be something going on with people that leads to this riskier behavior, and we don’t really know what’s causing that,” said Jessica Cicchino, vice president of research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“Even when people weren’t driving as much, the people who were driving were doing so in a more dangerous way,” Cicchino said.

Adkins said the decline in seat belt use is “kind of crazy,” but other factors are more understandable, considering that the early days of the pandemic allowed some people to feel free to drive poorly.

“People started driving like crazy because they could,” Adkins said. They are used to these roads being full. …And then our driving behavior did not return to normal. We have to learn how to share roads, and in the absence of that we have to have better engineering and more implementation, unfortunately.

This article first appeared on State limit, which is part of the state newsroom network, as is the Nebraska Examiner. Stateline maintains editorial independence.

The Nebraska Examiner is part of the State Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kate Folsom with questions: Follow the Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

(tags for translation)traffic

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