Our View: US Road Fatality Rate Still Rising in New Jersey | Latest titles

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This month’s annual road toll report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contained the dismal data the public has come to expect in this age of distracted driving.

The 43,000 people killed on American roads in 2021 was the highest in 16 years. The 10.5% increase over the previous year was the largest for which the agency began collecting death data in 1975.

There was good news beyond the headlines. Coming out of pandemic restrictions, Americans drove 11.2% more miles than the year before. As the increase in mileage outpaced the increase in fatalities, the road fatality rate fell slightly – to 1.33 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, from 1.34 in 2020 .

Perhaps at least the number of pandemic-related road fatalities has peaked and will now decline. Sadly, the carnage continues to mount in New Jersey.

So far this year, road deaths in NJ are up 14.8% over the same time last year. And that’s the same rate of increase that the period saw the previous year.

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The 183 killed on the roads this week in May 2020 have become 241 dead this year.

The victims of this shipwreck are mainly the drivers themselves. By this point in May 2020, 84 drivers had been killed; now it’s up to 145 pilots.

Cyclist fatalities have more than doubled, from just 5 in each of the previous two years to 11 so far this year. That number includes two recent victims from South Jersey, a teenager from Pleasantville last month and a senior from Little Egg Harbor Township this month.

After long-term declines driven primarily by safer vehicles, road fatalities began to rise and began to rise when the pandemic hit in 2020. and drugs, and distracted driving, as well as “ roads designed for speed rather than safety”. The surge “wiped out a decade and a half of progress in reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths.”

The federal government earlier this year launched a strategy to turn the tide, urging states and local governments to lower speed limits and adopt safer road designs, such as dedicated bike and bus lanes, a better lighting and crosswalks – and providing $6 billion in grants over five years to help it do just that. The strategy includes the use of speed cameras, which the US Department of Transportation says could provide fairer enforcement than police traffic stops.

Requirements are pending for more automotive safety technologies, including: electronic automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection systems on all new light-duty vehicles; automatic emergency braking on heavy goods vehicles; and alerts when rear passengers have not fastened their seat belts.

New Jersey and its municipalities have already worked to make roads safer and stand to benefit from additional federal funding. A new state law this year requires drivers who pass vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians to move into a lane if possible and must allow at least 4 feet even if they have to wait to pass.

They must also strengthen enforcement of the highway code and make it more consistent. The risks of aggressive driving may seem less to drivers as their cars become safer, but there are tragic consequences for the pedestrians and cyclists they share the road with.

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