Roanoke, Virginia – Modern vehicles in America are equipped with modern technologies and safety features, and today’s vehicles are the most advanced yet. In theory, such statements should understandably mean that modern vehicles are safer than ever, and they should keep drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and everyone else involved in traffic as safe as possible.
In recent years, 2020 was the only year when the number of fatalities in traffic incidents on U.S. roads declined. That trend was more or less expected, having in mind that our lives completely changed in a matter of days due to the pandemic, as the majority of us were spending most of the time at home amid lockdowns, school closures, and other strict pandemic measures that simply prevented us from doing our ordinary daily activities.
Despite modern vehicles being considered far more superior and much safer than older ones, the number of people killed in traffic incidents has been growing every year, except for 2020, and America will most likely see another record-high number of victims this year. What is even more concerning is the fact that a record-high number of pedestrians are being killed every year nationwide, a trend also seen locally in the Roanoke area.
An estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020 and the highest rate since 2005, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation. Compared to 2019, fatality rates have increased 18% — the highest two-year increase since 1946, when crashes increased 37.6% over 1944 levels, according to NHTSA data.
According to Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) statistics, a total of 123 pedestrian deaths were reported in 2018, 124 in 2019, 114 in 2020 and record-high number of pedestrian fatalities were reported last year when the number of victims reached 125. This year, recently released preliminary data shows that the number of pedestrian fatalities in Virginia is close to last year’s levels, and the state would probably set a new negative record.
While in some parts of the state the number of pedestrian fatalities has declined this year, Roanoke area residents are concerned about their safety because pedestrian fatalities have tripled this year compared to the same period last year. Last year, a total of five pedestrians were killed in the Roanoke region until November. As of November 14, a total of 18 pedestrians were killed in crashes this year.
According to traffic safety experts, the end of the pandemic and the country’s reopening surely impacted the overall numbers, but there are numerous contributing factors leading to such high numbers, and the majority of the fatal incidents could be prevented. The most common factors that lead to traffic incidents are reckless or distracted driving, cell phone usage, higher vehicle performance, speeding, the increasing number of trucks and SUVs on U.S. roads, and drunk driving.
To limit the number of pedestrian deaths, experts say there are several things that pedestrians should also practice to improve their safety. According to them, pedestrians are advised to wear light-colored or reflective clothing, put reflective strips on bags, bicycles, or other equipment, have front and back lights when riding a bicycle, and use headlamps and clip-on lights. To further improve road safety, pet owners are advised to use reflective dog leashes and collars.