One change that would make cars safer for everyone

“Pedestrian deaths have increased 75 percent in the US since 2010, according to Smart Growth America’s latest report. The numbers started increasing dramatically in 2020, with pedestrian deaths reaching a 40-year high in 2022.

In the intervening years, I’ve learned a lot about the factors that make traffic fatality rates in the US 50 percent higher than they are in other comparable nations.

They include dangerous road design that makes it easy for drivers to speed, and a breakdown in traffic enforcement that allows some of the worst drivers to get away with it for so long that they eventually kill someone. I’ve also reported how drivers in the US spend more time using their phones while driving than people in other countries, and on survey data that seems to suggest that drivers in the United States have more lax attitudes toward road safety than their European counterparts.

But there’s one thing I still can’t understand. 

Why has the government failed to address the fact that large, heavy vehicles are deadlier to pedestrians and cyclists than smaller cars? There is actually a way to make cars safer for everyone — and it includes changing how the government rates a “safe car.”  In Europe, government regulators test new vehicles to see how dangerous they are for pedestrians and cyclists and include that information in their safety ratings. They’ve been doing it for years. The US does no such thing. 

Those 5-star safety readings you see for cars? That rating is for people inside the car. So if you’ve read the news about the soaring numbers of vulnerable people being killed on roads, and thought about purchasing something that would be safer for them, you aren’t going to be able to find that information. The government currently isn’t testing for it.”

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