Recent years saw improvements in the numbers of deaths and injuries on U.S. and California roads. A variety of measures such as safety programs and campaigns and enhanced vehicle design led to a downward trend in accidents over the past decade.
Since 2020, though, traffic statistics show a return to more dangerous roads.
Traffic deaths increased in 2020
The clearest sign of perilous roads comes from an 8% increase in traffic deaths from 2019 to 2020. The Los Angeles Times reports that an estimated 42,000 people died on U.S. roads last year. This happened even as drivers logged 13% fewer miles than the year before.
Some observers blamed the increase in deaths on fewer drivers on the roads leading to more speeding violations. In 2020, California authorities issued double the normal number of citations for drivers going over 100 mph. Ironically, traffic congestion, which forces drivers to lower speeds, saved lives. This recent information may push traffic safety officials to focus on road safety at the expense of designing roads for faster speeds.
Traffic legislation measures also increased
Lawmakers in several states initiated legislation to address road safety, hoping to cut down on road deaths and injuries. One bill introduced in California aimed to allow local jurisdictions to have more control over speed limits. Traffic surveyors could take into account such factors as work zones and the presence of schools.
Other efforts in California look to improve enforcement of traffic violations, particularly speeding. This could lead to a reversal of the state’s ban on automated speed enforcement, at least in some localities. Provisions of legislation could include capping fees at $125, allowing a sliding scale for low-income drivers and making citations a civil offense.