Buttigieg announces strategy to turn tide of U.S. traffic deaths

Buttigieg announces strategy to turn tide of U.S. traffic deaths

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced Thursday that the Biden administration will implement a new strategy to curb the recent upswing in traffic-related injuries and deaths. After three decades of steady declines, U.S. traffic fatalities have trended back up since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Of the more than 370,000 people who died in transportation-related incidents between 2011 and 2020, almost 95% (more than 350,000) perished on U.S. roads — a situation the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) calls "both unacceptable and solvable." DOT has faced criticism from both within the administration and without for encouraging a lax attitude toward road fatalities.

"It doesn’t look good, and I continue to be extremely concerned about the trend," Buttigieg told the Associated Press. "Somehow it has become over the years and decades as normal, sort of the cost of doing business,” he said. “Even through a pandemic that led to considerably less driving, we continue to see more danger on our roads."

DOT is adopting "Safe System Approach," which operates on the premise that fatal accidents are preventable, provided all actors involved work toward the common goal of reducing accidents and resulting injuries. It's an approach that the DOT says has been effective at reducing traffic deaths in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Norway and is spreading in Europe. In Sweden and the Netherlands, traffic fatalities fell by 50 percent between 1994 and 2015.

The strategy focuses on five key components: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds and improved emergency response and post-accident care.