One of the functions of the US Department of Transportation is to reduce injuries and deaths from traffic accidents. Over the past 30 years, the agency has reduced the number of deaths by improving roads, safety equipment and driver awareness. However, this trend reversed in 2020 and again in 2021 as progress stalled and deaths increased.
Nearly 95 percent of deaths on the nation’s highways, highways and byways involve vehicles. For 2021 that would mean an estimated 42,915 lives were lost in vehicle crashes, a figure the US DOT has deemed unacceptable. In response, the US DOT created the National Highway Safety Strategy, which outlines a comprehensive, data-driven approach to identifying the most hazardous locations and the key factors involved in serious accidents.
More than just slogans and bumper stickers, the NRSS includes a series of maps to highlight different elements of data to underscore the causes and effects of serious accidents, including their impact on society. Starting with a heat map showing the hot spots of fatal accidents, viewers can zoom in on the areas with the highest concentration of accidents.
But hot spots don’t tell the full story. According to the US DOT, counties experience an average of 11 deaths per year, with the top 50 counties accounting for nearly a quarter of all deaths. The next map shows deaths by concentration, allowing viewers to look at individual counties to see if they are dying more or less than average.
It seems safe to conclude that counties with the highest population or the highest number of highways have the highest number of accidents and deaths. However, that is not always the case. Another map shows high-population districts divided by higher and lower rates and low-population areas with higher death rates.
The stated mission of the US NRSS DOT is to reduce fatalities and serious injuries, with the ambitious goal of eliminating them completely. In addition to the maps, they plan to provide data and analysis on how the agency’s funding is addressing road safety and what programs are most effective.