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Intensifying Traffic Deaths a Clear Mandate to Address the Main Causes of America’s Traffic Safety Crisis

May 17, 2022

Corinne Kisner, Executive Director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), today issued the following statement in response to USDOT data showing an accelerating increase in U.S. traffic fatalities:

USDOT’s latest fatality data confirm that the United States’ national traffic safety crisis is intensifying, with a person killed on American streets and roads every 13 minutes on average last year. This crisis is unique–no other industrialized country has streets as deadly–and unjust, with Black and Indigenous pedestrians nearly twice as likely to be struck and killed as White pedestrians.

While the U.S.’s traffic safety crisis is broad and multifaceted, evidence shows where attention and resources must be urgently directed to save the most lives. USDOT must move swiftly to reform the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), an obscure and outdated federal regulation that dictates the design of nearly every street in the U.S., and holds cities back from using innovative new treatments that save lives. Likewise, USDOT must prioritize extensive changes to the New Car Assessment Program, where the ever-larger and increasingly-deadly vehicles on our streets routinely get federally-approved five-star safety ratings. 

On the ground, USDOT’s data clearly shows where State and City DOTs must direct resources–the 4% of our roads, known as urban arterials, where 40% of all traffic deaths occur. These are the too-big, too-wide, too-fast streets that disproportionately kill and also disproportionately cut through lower-income neighborhoods. Drivers on these urban arterials killed 16,197 people last year alone. 

Tackling the carnage on arterials will require not just funding and city action, but leadership by all 50 states across the country. Most arterials are owned by states. In fact, more than half of all traffic deaths in urban areas occur on state-owned urban arterials, outside of city control. We call on states to use the $300 billion in infrastructure bill funding they control to redesign these roads before thousands more die.

NACTO commends USDOT for its recent commitment to a National Roadway Safety Strategy, for its transparency in outlining the safety crisis as it is, and for designing inspired new programs like Safe Streets and Roads for All, which will provide critically-needed funding to cities to redesign streets for safety. Now it’s time for every level of government–from cities to states to USDOT–to act with the needed urgency to stop this preventable crisis from taking so many of our residents’ lives. 


About the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)
NACTO is an association of 91 major North American cities and transit agencies formed to exchange transportation ideas, insights, and practices and cooperatively approach national transportation issues. The organization’s mission is to build cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible, and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life. To learn more, visit or follow us on Twitter at @NACTO.

Alex Engel | [email protected]

For Immediate Release
May 17, 2022