National Safety Council puts road-safety focus on pedestrians

The report called the trend in U.S. new-vehicle sales toward heavier, larger SUVs and other trucks “an ominous one for street safety,” one that could grow worse as even heavier electrified vehicles become more commonplace. The group called for revisions to federal regulations that would scale back on the weight and height of new vehicles to help protect vulnerable road users.

Vulnerable road users “are in the most need of protection, not only because they are physically exposed to motor vehicles, but also because automakers are not incentivized to protect people who are not buying their products,” according to the executive summary.

The report found that U.S. cities made “catastrophic mistakes” in the early 20th century when they prioritized the automobile on city streets. Cities cut back on mass transit, shrunk sidewalks and created laws such as jaywalking to prioritize auto speed over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists and the use of other modes of transportation.

Cities should learn from those mistakes and instead make rules that do not “promote or enable a particular technology,” the report says.

“Should conflicts emerge between the interests of street users and technology companies (such as sidewalk drones that jeopardize the access of those using wheelchairs), advocates and policymakers should stand with the people whose mobility is under threat,” the report summary states.

The report concluded that dense neighborhoods are likely to experience changes in transportation safety faster than other areas, given that they “induce more short trips” and are more likely to have “high-quality networks of bike lanes and sidewalks.”

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