Many would assume that a significant reduction in traffic would also lead to a significant reduction in traffic-related deaths. It seems logical. Take large numbers of cars off the road and there should be a subsequent decrease in the number of deaths on those roads. The years of the pandemic, however, have shown us that such logic does not always apply. In fact, auto-related fatalities have spiked in the two years that the country has been in the clutches of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Philly has been no exception.
2020 saw an 18% reduction in traffic on city streets and an incredible 88% increase in traffic-related fatalities. Speed and aggressive driving were blamed in a startling 42% of those collisions nearly four years after the city launched its Vision Zero program to combat traffic-related injuries and fatalities. In fact, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Vision Zero has not led to any sort of a significant reduction in traffic-related fatalities since its inception.
Mayor Jim Kenney admonished the city’s residents for their role in the increase. “People are lead-footing around this town…and they’re driving like idiots,” he said at a local news conference. “The pandemic…has made people do things they normally wouldn’t do, like driving crazily fast and doing insane stuff with cars in Center City.”
These statistics align with national numbers that show that the nation’s drivers are using the space provided by lower numbers of cars on their local highways and roads to push their vehicles faster and drive more recklessly than ever before. As a result, it’s not that the numbers of collisions and incidents has climbed, rather the collisions and incidents that are occurring are deadlier.
Combine those factors and the results are predictably catastrophic. Add in a populace that is exhausted, on edge, and more distracted than ever before, and Vision Zero seems more like a dream than an actual vision for moving forward.