Obviously, the two really steep surges were during the Ferguson Effect and the Floyd Effect, when black motor vehicle accident deaths in general surged, as did black homicide deaths. But the high correlation during the Black Lives Matter between (1) the cops backing off, (2) Americans, especially blacks, driving more recklessly, and (3) blacks packing more illegal handguns when they went out and thus shooting each other more is off limits for respectable discourse. It’s almost as if the Racial Reckoning turned out to be a bad idea. But that’s impossible.
Hence, the NYT declares itself baffled by this trend:
By Emily Badger, Ben Blatt and Josh Katz Dec. 11, 2023
Sometime around 2009, American roads started to become deadlier for pedestrians, particularly at night. Fatalities have risen ever since, reversing the effects of decades of safety improvements. And it’s not clear why.
What’s even more perplexing: Nothing resembling this pattern has occurred in other comparably wealthy countries. In places like Canada and Australia, a much lower share of pedestrian fatalities occurs at night, and those fatalities—rarer in number—have generally been declining, not rising.
In America, these trends present a puzzle that has stumped experts on vehicle design, driver behavior, road safety and how they interact: What changed, starting about 15 years ago, that would cause rising numbers of pedestrian deaths specifically in the U.S.—and overwhelmingly at night? …
“I don’t have any definitive answers for this,” said Jessica Cicchino, the vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Ms. Cicchino, like many observers, has puzzled over how rapidly nighttime deaths have risen. “What is it that’s happening specifically in the dark?” …
It is darkness itself that matters.
This chart shows the deadliest time of day for pedestrians, averaging data from 2000 to 2021 over a whole calendar year:
In other words, pedestrians get killed the most shortly after sunset, whether sunset comes at 4:30 PM in December or 8:30 PM in June. Indeed, I hate driving in the hour after sunset. It’s pretty obvious why driving is worse when the setting sun is blinding your eyes, and also in the half hour after sunset, when the sky is still brighter than the ground and a lot of streetlights haven’t come on yet. But why is it still harder to see 60 minutes after sunset when the sky appears blacker than it is at midnight?
More relevantly to the question about this trend, have the dangers of driving in crepuscular light gotten worse over the decades? The article doesn’t attempt to answer that question, but it hints that that’s the explanation: the contrast between darkness outside and glowing screens inside. The NYT article seems to lean toward the idea that because Americans drive manual shift cars less often than do Europeans, Americans fiddle with their cellphones more or are more dazzled by their touchscreen displays. Europeans driving stick shifts, in contrast, need two hands to drive:
Smartphones—and the way they can distract both drivers and pedestrians—aren’t uniquely American. But there is one thing that is still distinctly so: the pervasiveness in the U.S. of automatic transmissions, which help free up a driver’s hand for other uses. Just 1 percent of all new passenger vehicles sold this year in the U.S. had manual transmissions, according to the online car-shopping resource Edmunds. In Europe, manual transmissions are declining in popularity as a share of new light vehicles sold. But they still make up about 70 to 75 percent of cars on the road, estimated Felipe Munoz, senior analyst at JATO Dynamics.
But what about Canada and Australia? Neither is anywhere near as devoted to manual shifts as is, say, Italy. They both have a fairly American-style automotive culture, judging from Mad Max movies. But neither has seen an upsurge in pedestrian deaths.
Other theories include the increase in the homeless since 2016 and marijuana legalization.
Those sound plausible.
But the notion that the general breakdown of law and order during the anti-police Great Awokening of the last decade is getting pedestrians killed is off limits for decent-minded people.