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Want to Improve Traffic Safety? Let People Get Around Without Driving

12:24 PM PDT on July 31, 2014

This ad is being aired across Missouri to convince voters to OK a three-quarter-cent sales tax that would raise $5.4 billion for transportation projects -- mostly highways -- over 10 years. The spots have been airing heavily in the run-up to the August 5 election, supported by millions of dollars from construction companies that hope to cash in.

It was smart of the construction lobby to zero in on the issue of safety, says Chuck Marohn at Strong Towns. But will spending billions on highway expansion make anyone safer? Marohn doesn't think so:

We can have a lot of conversation about what makes a transportation system safe -- and we have had that conversation here in multiple ways -- but few people ever talk about the safest option: reducing the amount people are forced to drive.

I mentioned this a couple years ago when talking about car seats. We obsess about whether a kid is buckled up properly but nobody bothers to ask the simpler question: what are you doing driving your kids around so much? We don't question it because it is a given, the casualty rate that comes from that an accepted level of attrition.

Proposition 7 in Missouri is accompanied by a long list of projects that would be funded if it passes. Lots of road widenings and expansions. Yes, let's improve safety -- and if we were really serious about it, there are some fairly straightforward ways to do so -- but let's primarily focus on reducing the amount that people are FORCED to drive.

Then there will be a lot fewer horrible accidents for these police officers to get called to.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Delaware shares shots of Philadelphia's new protected bike lane. The Urbanist opines on the significance of Seattle's plan to build a downtown streetcar with a dedicated center lane. And Baltimore Spokes reports from the trial of a negligent driver who killed a cyclist.

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