One of the functions of the United States Department of Transportation is to reduce injuries and deaths caused by traffic accidents. Over the past 30 years, the agency has successfully reduced fatalities by improving roads, safety equipment and driver education. However, this trend reversed in 2020 and again in 2021 as progress stalled and the number of deaths increased.
Nearly 95% of deaths on the country’s roads, streets and highways involve a vehicle. For 2021, that means an estimated 42,915 lives were lost in vehicle crashes, a number the US DOT deems unacceptable. In response, the U.S. DOT has developed a National Road Safety Strategy, which outlines a comprehensive, data-driven approach to identifying the most dangerous locations and key factors involved in serious crashes.
More than just slogans and bumper stickers, the NRSS includes a series of cards to highlight different data elements to highlight the cause and effect of serious accidents, including community impact. Starting with a heatmap showing fatal crash hotspots, viewers can zoom in on areas with the highest concentration of crashes.
But hotspots don’t tell the whole story. According to the US DOT, the average county sees 11 deaths per year, with the top 50 counties accounting for nearly a quarter of all deaths. The following map shows deaths by concentration, allowing viewers to look at individual counties to see if they had more or fewer deaths than average.
It seems safe to conclude that counties with the highest populations or the highest number of roads have the highest number of accidents and fatalities. However, this is not always the case. Another map shows high population counties broken down by higher and lower rates as well as low population areas with higher death rates.
The stated mission of the US DOT NRSS is to reduce fatalities and serious injuries, with the ambitious goal of eliminating them altogether. In addition to maps, it plans to provide data and analysis on how agency funding addresses road safety and which programs are most effective.