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35,092 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2015. Traffic fatalities decreased significantly over the last decade, but abruptly increased by 7% from 2014 to 2015 and preliminary data shows fatalities rose 8% in the first nine months of 2016. 9.5% more pedestrians and 12.2% more bicyclists were killed by crashes in 2015 than 2014, emphasizing the importance of designing streets for the safety of all users.

The recent increase in fatal crashes is not yet fully understood, but communities are trying to save lives through improvements in road design, such as widening lanes and shoulders; adding and improving medians, guard rails, and parallel rumble strips; upgrading road markings and traffic signals; and using new materials, such as high friction surface treatments. Another increasingly popular method communities are using to improve the safety of their roads for all users is the “road diet,” which reconfigures a road, reducing the number of lanes and adding safety features. For instance, a four-lane, undivided highway could be converted to a two-lane highway with a center two-way left-turn lane. The extra space created by removing a lane can be reallocated for other safety-oriented uses such as bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, or designated transit stops. The Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) collects data, performs research, and provides funding to states to implement these infrastructure-based safety measures.

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