We’ve come a long way since Ralph Nader’s book, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” focused our attention on how unsafe cars were. Seat belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, etc., make traveling by car much safer now. Yet approximately 1.3 million are killed and 50 million injured yearly in traffic accidents around the world. Half of those deaths occur among vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

The World Health Organization has declared May 15-21 the seventh U.N. Global Road Safety Week to focus attention on this menace.

We call them “accidents,” yet there are usually avoidable causes: road design, distracted driving, speed, etc. Someone hit by a car traveling 20 mph has a 90% chance of survival. That drops to a 20% survival rate at 40 mph.

In 2023, 21 pedestrians and one cyclist were killed by vehicles in Maine. The fourth pedestrian fatality this year happened on May 7 in Bangor.  While pedestrians and bikers need to make themselves visible to drivers, drivers need to realize that they’re operating machines that can kill, especially if they’re driving trucks or large SUVs. Simply obeying speed limits would make our roads much safer.

A sustainable future will require safer road design, enabling more of us to bike or walk to work or to run errands. There was a 26% increase from 2019-2022 in the numbers of Mainers biking to work!

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is doing critical work through their high-quality education and advocacy efforts. Support them if you can.

Mary Ann Larson

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