The ability to travel safely on U.S. roads has reached a crisis point. With more than 46,000 loved ones lost to traffic violence last year and historic highs for fatalities of people walking and biking, “crisis” is the only appropriate word.
Leadership, action and courage is needed to address any crisis, and the same is true for mobility safety and accessibility. That is why it is crucial to recognize that traffic safety is a ballot issue when voting this year, and America needs leaders ready to make street safety a priority.
American mobility systems, and the level of safety we enjoy within them, are influenced by many policy decisions at the local, state and national levels. From setting speed limits to allocating funding, the environment we experience on a daily basis is the reflection of the priorities of our public officials. The celebrated Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and long-awaited National Roadway Safety Strategy are in place because bipartisan leaders reflected their community needs for a safer mobility future. The U.S. needs bipartisan elected leaders who recognize that securing the ability to move safely through a community is at the heart of who we are.
Community safety should be central to any candidate’s platform, and you can help raise awareness among your leaders by asking some basic questions:
Do they know there is a crisis on our roadways? They might not be able to cite the latest data, but are they aware road deaths have increased at an exponential rate during the pandemic? Community leaders should know about constituents’ safety concerns and why it does or doesn’t feel safe to walk, bike and roll.
How do they travel in the community? In order to appreciate the mobility challenges facing the community, public officials and their staffs should regularly experience active transportation, such as biking and walking, as well as transit. Not only will it give them first-hand experience with the systems they govern, but it will also give them an opportunity to engage constituents who use these modes of transportation regularly.
What is their vision for the future of safe mobility in the community? Maybe they don’t have an exact roadmap, but they should have ideas of how to prioritize the safety of all community members. This vision will reflect their priorities for policy, funding and action.
What’s their track record on supporting safety measures? For incumbents or candidates with prior experience, explore their support for previous safe mobility measures. Have they stood in the way of progress or identified funding to prioritize safety? Action means everything when it comes to making our roads and, by extension, communities safer. Look at candidates’ actions, not just their words.
Addressing our national transportation crisis will take every single one of us. Our safety requires public officials in office at the national, state and local levels advocating for zero traffic deaths. This November, prioritize safety and make the safe movement of people an important consideration when casting your ballot.
Mark Chung is executive vice president of roadway practice at the National Safety Council.