The United States is in the midst of a pedestrian fatality crisis. In 2020, more than 6,721 people were killed while walking, despite a dramatic decrease in cars on the road due to the pandemic. In 2021, the problem got even worse: 7,485 people were killed — the most pedestrian deaths in nearly 40 years, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.
The pandemic years weren’t outliers, though. Pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise for more than a decade. Increasingly, the United States stands alone, with an overall traffic fatality rate that’s 50 percent higher than comparable nations in Western Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia. According to the Urban Institute, Americans are now almost three times more likely to die in a car crash than their counterparts in France.
Why are US roads getting deadlier? This series by Vox senior correspondent Marin Cogan explores that question in depth. Cogan looks at the nation’s most dangerous road to explore how road designs have created dangerous conditions for pedestrians, how the increase in large SUVs and trucks endanger people outside of vehicles, and examines the cultural conditions that have conditioned us to think of these preventable deaths as unavoidable. Taken together, the pieces explore the impact of a society built around cars, and outlines what measures would make US streets safer for everyone.