Honoring World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims
Each year, 1.35 million people around the world are killed in traffic crashes. The number of people dying or being seriously injured from preventable traffic crashes is rising at an alarming rate — this is particularly true for the United States. According to early-estimate crash data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 20,160 people died on U.S. roads alone in the first half of 2021.
Started in 2005 and celebrated on the third Sunday of November each year, World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR) was adopted by the United Nations as a day to honor the lives lost and impacted by road crashes. Many street safety organizations, like the Vision Zero Network and Families for Safe Streets chapters, come together to lead the charge in commemorating the day and provide a platform for road traffic victims and their families.
You can honor World Day of Remembrance by hosting or participating in commemoration events, like a candlelight vigil, and by calling on local, state, and federal government for change. Here in Washington, D.C., the local Families for Safe Streets chapter and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) Street Smart Program are hosting a chalk art Remembrance Wall at Union Station leading up to the day and Families for Safe Streets chapters across the country will hold a virtual candle lighting on Sunday, November 21 at 8 pm EST.
This year’s WDR theme emphasizes reducing traffic speeds and adapting low-speed streets. Prioritizing safety over speed has the potential to prevent many traffic deaths and serious injuries. Fitting for this year’s slogan: REMEMBER. SUPPORT. ACT. which serves as a reminder that the day is the perfect time to commemorate the people we have lost to traffic violence, but also take action to prevent the loss of even more lives.
Why? Pedestrians and people who bike are dangerously overlooked on our car-oriented streets. While there are forthcoming opportunities to address building better infrastructure and safety standards that aim to protect vulnerable road users through the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and impending Reconciliation Bill, we still have much work to do.
Work that involves dismantling the passive attitudes towards people who bike and walk that allow streets to remain speed-prioritized and eradicating discriminatory practices in infrastructure investment and racial injustices that have made Black and brown communities more susceptible to traffic violence. This action may take years — leading to the loss of millions more — if we don’t continue to prioritize safer streets and better biking for all people.
Earlier this year, the League of American Bicyclists joined Families for Safe Streets, along with Toward Zero Deaths, the Road to Zero Coalition, and the Vision Zero Network, to urge President Biden and his leadership team to commit to reducing traffic fatalities to zero by 2050.
The League joined the call for #ZeroTrafficDeaths because every traffic death is a person whose loss impacts a family, impacts friends, and impacts their community. There is no reason to accept the inevitability of traffic deaths and there is every reason to be outraged that roads in the United States are significantly more dangerous than almost all peer countries.
In honor of World Day of Remembrance, and every day that a precious life is lost to road traffic violence, we call upon the action of both those working on the ground and Congressional leaders — who yield the most power in enacting change-making legislation — to ensure that our streets are made safer for all so that more bicyclists will not be needlessly lost.