The roadside cross, displaying a name, perhaps plastic flowers and sometimes a teddy bear attached with duct tape, is a symbol of the broken hearts left behind by someone who died on that spot. After years of declining traffic fatalities, the number of lives lost on the nation’s roads and highways is rising again. As authorities search for a cause of the mounting human toll, one factor likely won’t be considered: the regulations mandating higher engine fuel efficiency that compromise vehicle safety.
The National Transportation Safety Administration calculates that 35,092 persons died on U.S. roadways in 2015, a 7.2 percent increase over 2014, and the largest increase in 50 years. “Despite decades of safety improvements, far too many people are killed on our nation’s roads every year,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Solving this problem will take teamwork, so we’re issuing a call to action and asking researchers, safety experts, data scientists, and the public to analyze the fatality data and help find ways to prevent these tragedies.”