Deaths of bi­cy­clists, truck­ers up sharply

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byjoan Lowy

WASHINGTON — Deaths of bi­cy­clists and oc­cu­pants of large trucks rose sharply last year even as to­tal traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties dropped to their low­est level since 1949, fed­eral safety of­fi­cials said Mon­day.

Bi­cy­clist deaths jumped 8.7 per­cent and deaths of oc­cu­pants of large trucks in­creased 20 per­cent, the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion said in an anal­y­sis of 2011 traf­fic deaths.

Over­all traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties dropped 1.9 per­cent, to 32,367. The de­cline came as the num­ber of miles driven by mo­torists dropped by 1.2 per­cent.

Last year also saw the low­est fa­tal­ity rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 mil­lion ve­hi­cle miles trav­eled in 2011, down from 1.11 deaths per 100 mil­lion ve­hi­cle miles trav­eled in 2010.

The in­crease in bi­cy­cle deaths prob­a­bly re­flects more peo­ple rid­ing bi­cy­cles to work and for plea­sure, said Jonathan Ad­kins, deputy ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Gov­er­nors High­way Safety As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents state high­way safety agen­cies.

Washington, D.C., for ex­am­ple, re­ports a 175 per­cent in­crease in bi­cy­clists dur­ing morn­ing and evening rush hours since 2004. The city also tripled its bike lane net­work dur­ing the same pe­riod.

“Our cul­ture is be­gin­ning to move away from driv­ing and to­ward health­ier and greener modes of trans­porta­tions,” Ad­kins said. “We need to be able to ac­com­mo­date all th­ese forms of trans­porta­tion safely.”

The in­crease in deaths of large-truck oc­cu­pants is more puz­zling, but may be due to more trucks re­turn­ing to the road as the econ­omy im­proves, he said.

“There are more ques­tions than an­swers about what is oc­cur­ring here,” Ad­kins said. The NHTSA said the agency is work­ing with the Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Ad­min­is­tra­tion to gather more in­for­ma­tion to bet­ter un­der­stand the rea­son for the in­crease.

In­dus­try of­fi­cials sus- pect there may be a con­nec­tion be­tween states in­creas­ing their speed lim­its and the in­crease in deaths, said Sean McNally, a spokesman for the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tions.

But Fred McLuckie, leg­isla­tive di­rec­tor at the In­ter­na­tional Brother­hood of Team­sters, said it’s not clear speed limit in­creases played a role in ris­ing deaths.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.