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House committee sounds alarm on rising U.S. traffic deaths -Breaking


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Traffic jam in Chicago before Thanksgiving Day Weekend. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters), -A hearing by the U.S. House of Representatives was held on Wednesday to discuss rising American traffic deaths, and how safer roads can be built. It called it an emergency crisis.

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.

Congress approved $5 billion to local governments as part of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill 2021.

Peter DeFazio, Chair of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said that for many years, “all we stressed was rapid throughput for trucks and cars.”

DeFazio described the United States as “kind of sad” when it comes to per-capita traffic deaths. He noted that they are much higher than those in Canada or many European countries.

Since 1975 when National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), began to use its Traffic Fatality Tracking System, the preliminary annual growth reported has been the greatest.

Shawn Wilson of American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials said that the crash data suggested “there is no simple answer nor one-size fits all solution” to the problem. The number of fatalities has increased both on rural roads and urban streets, in both night-time and daytime crashes.

Wilson stated, “We need to take a proactive approach to our efforts. We need redundant safety strategies.”

U.S. traffic deaths rose dramatically after the end of pandemic lockdowns in 2020. NHTSA reported that the 2021 death toll for pedestrians rose by 13%, to 7,342, the most in the past 31 years. The NHTSA also stated that the NHTSA report showed that the deaths of cyclists rose 5%, to 985. It was the highest number since at least 1975.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety urged Congress to work “to prevent traffic fatalities” by “reducing speeds, road safety infrastructure improvements and better post-crash management.”

Transportation Department issued a strategy in January to decrease traffic fatalities. Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated that there is a “crisis on our roads”.

On Wednesday, 14 U.S. senators led by Senator Ed Markey asked Buttigieg to detail progress on the strategy and efforts to ensure target completion dates are met.