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Philly Traffic Deaths Down in 2021, But Not By Enough

A new post on Axios continues the analysis of Philadelphia traffic deaths from year to year and finds that while the number of fatalities is down from its all-time high, it is still at unacceptably high levels.

Down from 2020’s all-time high of 152, the number of traffic-related deaths on Philadelphia streets dropped to 121 in 2021. This makes the city’s roadways the second most dangerous in the nation, trailing only Los Angeles – a city with over twice the population.

Officials are unhappy with the lack of progress. “After a tragic spike in deaths in 2020,” says the city’s deputy managing director for transportation, “we had hoped for a dramatic decrease in 2021. This was not the case.” Philadelphia is mulling a universal 25 mile-per-hour speed limit on all city streets to combat the issue as excessive speed remained the leading cause of deaths and injuries from traffic-related incidents. Pedestrians bore the brunt of fatalities as 38% of those involved in traffic-related incidents died, even though pedestrian-related collisions accounted for only 15% of overall incidents.

The city started a Vision Zero initiative in 2017 after the previous year’s fatality count almost reached 100. Since then, numbers have actually trended higher, although the traffic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as sharing in much of the blame. Traffic fatalities spiked nationwide on roads across the country as drivers increased speeds on empty roads which led to a decrease in overall incidents but an increase in the severity of those incidents.

2022 doesn’t appear to bode much better for the City of Brotherly Love as numbers look to trend on par with the previous year’s levels. As stated by Philadelphia officials in their annual Vision Zero report to the city, “this perpetuates the increase over pre-pandemic rates of traffic deaths and shows more must be done in order to understand and reverse this trend.”