Traffic Safety

The predominant mode of travel in the US is the automobile. Injuries and fatalities from automobile accidents is a major cause for concern in the U.S. Traffic safety measures seek to decrease the risk of death and injury by improving vehicle and road safety.  Automobile travel is by nearly every measure far riskier than either bus or train transit.  Increased use of public transit has the potential to reduce injury and death from transportation-related accidents.  In fact, expanded mass transit service can affect an individuals’ risk of accidental injury in three ways: (1) By changing the mode of travel, usually from automobile to another mode for which the risk of injury is greater or less than travel by automobile, (2) By changing the potential risk of vehicular collision for other vehicles and pedestrians, and (3) By providing transportation alternatives to people with impairments that put them at high risk of injury.

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Downstream Health Effects

The health effects of improved traffic safety range from reductions in fatalities and injuries (pedestrian and automobile) to potential increases in physical activity.  Perceived traffic safety is often cited as one of the reasons not to walk or bike to school or other destinations.

Policies and Other Determinants

There are a number of diverse policy levers that affect traffic safety.  Some examples include:

  • Improving traffic control in densely populated areas to favor pedestrians
  • Encouraging the use of mass transit as an alternative to automobile use