A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Wednesday is holding a hearing on soaring American traffic deaths and efforts to build safer roads.
Last year, traffic deaths jumped 10.5% to 42,915 marking the highest number killed on U.S. roads in a single-year since 2005.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee chair holding the hearing, called the hearing “exceptionally timely.”
The preliminary yearly increase reported is the highest since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began using its traffic fatality tracking system in 1975.
Congress, as part of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill in 2021, approved $5 billion for local governments to improve roadway safety.
The subcommittee will hear witnesses from the National
League of Cities, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Washington Area Bicycle Association and the American Traffic Safety Services Association.
People outside cars are especially vulnerable.
The number of pedestrians killed in 2021 jumped 13% to 7,342, the highest number since 1981, while the number of people on bicycles killed rose 5% to 985, the highest number since at least 1975, NHTSA said.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety urged Congress to work “to prevent traffic fatalities by minimizing roadway conflicts and reducing crash forces when they do occur results” by “reducing speeds, road safety infrastructure improvements and better post-crash management.”
It also wants the NHTSA to set new rules requiring “minimum performance standards for advanced driver assistance systems and requirements for adaptive beam headlights, improved hood and bumper standards.”
In January, the Transportation Department released a strategy designed to cut traffic deaths. “We face a crisis on our roadways,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
U.S. traffic deaths surged after pandemic lockdowns ended in 2020 as more drivers engaged in unsafe behavior. Traffic deaths are now up 18% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels, while driving has now returned to 2019 levels.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Robert Birsel)