- August 27th, 2016

A federal report this week revealed that traffic deaths have risen 9 percent over the last year and have totaled 19,100 in the first six months of 2016. More than 2.2 million people have been seriously injured in that time. The economic cost of those accidents is estimated annually at $410 billion, or 2.3 percent of gross domestic product.

Much of the blame has been placed, predictably, on distracted and drunk driving and rising vehicle miles traveled. The “elephant in the living room,” the factor that nobody wants to talk about, is sprawl and the infrastructure of sprawl.

The roads built to support sprawl, designed to modern safety standards, are contributors to the majority of US traffic deaths and injuries. A study by Garrick and Marshall of 24 small-to-medium-sized California cities highlights this issue dramatically. Twelve of these cities are mostly built on pre-1950 street grids. Those cities have less than one-third the traffic deaths per capita as the other 12 cities, with modern thoroughfare networks.

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