I recently read an interesting report from the New York Times dealing with how vehicle deaths are on the rise in America, yet down for most of the rest of the world–especially for motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians, with deaths rising 140%, 17%, and 19% over the last 25 years, respectively. In fact, in 2020, while the world stayed home, and far fewer people drove, the United States’ road deaths actually increased by 7.2%, one of only 3 countries to see an increase.
Now, the Times goes on to assert that car-first road design plays a huge role in this rise. While other countries have shifted to more pedestrian and cyclist friendly road designs, America, as a whole, has not embraced that concept. The Times also notes that the designs of vehicles commonly made for American consumers don’t have additional safety features built into their front ends.
But all of these thoughts are big-picture problems. So it got me thinking. I personally can’t do much to change this at a systemic level, but what can I do to make a difference?
- Motorists: The number one thing you can do as a motorist to reduce these deaths is to always be aware of your surroundings when driving. It’s not enough to just pay attention to other cars. Be aware of people on the sidewalks. Watch out for motorcycles. Keep an eye out for bicycles in traffic lanes.
- Motorcyclists: Motorcycles are a lot of fun to drive, but the best thing you can do as a motorcyclist is to reduce risky driving behaviors, such as stunting and lane splitting. It’s also important to wear protective gear, such as helmets, riding jackets, and proper pants and shoes.
- Pedestrians: It’s important for pedestrians to know and obey the rules of the road. Make sure to cross at crosswalks whenever possible, or at least at intersections. Keep to the sidewalks, and if no sidewalks are available, stay as far away from traffic as possible. Additionally, if you must be out after dark, make sure to wear brightly colored or reflective clothing whenever possible, to make sure drivers can see you easier.
- Cyclists: It is also important for cyclists to follow the rules of the road at all times. This includes following traffic signals, using hand turn signals, and yielding to other traffic, where applicable. It’s also important to dress for safety as well. Always wear a helmet, and when possible, wear bright and/or reflective clothing to make sure that it’s easier to be seen by motorists.
As someone who deals with car, truck, and motorcycle accidents on a daily basis, I’ve heard all the horror stories, and seen all the pictures. Frankly, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. While we cant solve the whole problem ourselves, if we look out for motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians, we can save some lives!