On Wednesday, the Department of Transportation announced it will be sending more than $800 million in funding to various cities and municipalities across the country to improve roadway safety. The announcement comes after new numbers show the traffic deaths in our country are still near record highs.
In 2021, the US hit a 16-year high when 42,915 people died from traffic crashes in the US, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For comparison, 49,000 Americans died that same year due to gun violence, according to the CDC.
“I sometimes fear we’re so surrounded by [traffic deaths] that we’re used to it,” said US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in an interview with Scripps News. “We almost treat it like it’s inevitable; like it’s the cost of doing business in the modern world.”
American roadway deaths are higher than in almost every other developed nation in the world. In 2020, when more people stayed off the roads due to the pandemic, the United States was one of only three developed nations to see a rise in traffic deaths when other countries like France, Sweden, and Italy all saw decreases of more than 23%.
It is one of the many reasons Buttigieg has announced the funding to cities nationwide.
“The strategy here, and really throughout the President’s infrastructure plan, is that we’re not going to think up all the projects in Washington and impose them on communities,” he said. “The answers don’t all come from Washington, but more of the funding should and that’s the strategy we took here.”
In rural Iowa, for example, Fayette County received $10.5 million to widen shoulders and put in rumble strips since 60% of the traffic deaths in that area are due to lane departures, according to the Department of Transportation. In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, $12.7 million is going toward intersection upgrades, where 77% of the deaths in the city take place.
The funding for the plans comes from President Biden’s infrastructure plan, which passed in 2021 on a vote of 228-206.
“We’re setting up a multi-billion dollar program that didn’t exist when this administration arrived, so it’s not something that happens overnight, especially because we need to make sure these taxpayer dollars are well spent, and we need to target them so we can save as many lives as we can,” said Buttigieg.
The newest numbers show through the first nine months of 2022, there were 31,785 traffic deaths, a decrease of only 0.2% from that same period the year before.