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Increased traffic is hazardous to our health

5 Aug 2010 | Posted by | 0 Comments | ,

Much of the discussion around health and transportation has zeroed in on how a lack of travel options and an unwalkable built environment in our communities reduces physical activity. But when traffic is the leading cause of death among children worldwide and the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 1 and 34, something far more urgent is at stake. Shouldn’t we be outraged that tens of thousands die in preventable traffic accidents each year?

The Centers for Disease Control deserves credit for prioritizing increased seat-belt use and reductions in impaired driving as paramount to traffic safety. Where CDC and other agencies fall short, as Greater Greater Washington points out, is the role of traffic itself in health outcomes, rather than simply traffic safety. Ken Archer writes:

The flaw in this exclusive focus on traffic safety is that increased safety only matters when vehicle miles traveled (VMT) are kept static or reduced. Instead, safety improvements that reduce fatalities per VMT have been offset by rising VMT.

Ken is exactly right. Under the status quo, vehicle-miles-traveled will continue to rise, offsetting much of the progress we make on safety-related measures. Until we build roads to safely accomodate all users, whether in cars, on foot, bike or transit, Americans will continue to be at risk. Streetsblog asked why traffic reduction isn’t a top public health concern. That’s a question we hope more will start asking.

No Comments

  1. Oleg

    14 years ago

    Basic reason in traffic accidents: speed exceedings and carelessness of drivers and pedestrians.