AAA Mid-Atlantic recently warned that August is the most deadly month on U.S. roadways. As WTOP noted last week “Five of the deadliest days of the year on U.S. roads are in August. An average of 123 people die each year on August 3.” Unfortunately this fatal August trend proved correct in our area this past weekend when eight people were killed in auto accidents in metropolitan Washington.
Many such deaths appear to be preventable. In addition to the most obvious ways for averting accidents – reduced vehicle speeds following signs and rules not drinking and driving etc. – changes to land-use that encourage alternative modes of transportation can make roadways vastly safer for all road users.
Transportation planner Todd Littman discussed the economic and societal costs of traffic accidents and argued in a recent piece for Planetizen that a comprehensive approach to reducing traffic fatalities – which includes implementing better traffic laws and enforcing them better as well as reducing auto usage overall and improving land-use policies to incorporate smart growth principles – is much more effective than one-dimensional approaches.
Urban affairs columnist Neal Peirce commenting on Littman’s piece agreed that a comprehensive method is the only way to substantially decrease the number of traffic accidents and fatalities.
“We need to redesign our roads elevate safety measures for cyclists and pedestrians. And most important the time’s at hand to recognize that the compact mixed-use communities celebrated these days as ‘smart growth’ represent a huge potential for safer and less accident-scarred lives.” In addition to the negative health impacts of auto-dependency Peirce argues that the economic costs of traffic accidents are far too high for our economically strapped country.
As Region Forward moves into the implementation stage if its targets related to reducing the number of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities reducing vehicle miles traveled and concentrating development in activity centers are met roads in metropolitan Washington will be safer for everyone.