In Boston, they laid 4,000 yellow roses on the steps of the State House, representing those killed and seriously injured in crashes in Massachusetts in 2020 and 2021.
In St. Paul, they lined candles on the steps of the State Capitol in the shape of “447,” the number of people killed in traffic crashes, so far, this year.
In Texas, they read the names of every person killed in traffic crashes in the past year – a sobering process that took more than 12 hours.
In NYC, they dedicated 1,800 potted trees in honor of the people who died in traffic crashes in the city during the past eight years.
In Bismark, families and friends joined together at the State Capitol and added to a makeshift memorial — photos, shoes, and flowers — in honor of their loved ones lost in crashes. Theirs was a first-time event.
In Washington, D.C, thousands reflected on the toll of traffic violence at a powerful Remembrance Wall in Union Station in the nation’s capital, where people added heartfelt notes and photographs in memory of those lost.
And U.S. Secretary of Transportation, in an unprecedented statement, recognized the “national crisis” on our streets and pledged “urgent action.”
Each of these events commemorating World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (November 21, 2021) — and dozens more across the nation (see images below) — tell stories of loss and suffering.
They also tell stories of determination. Determination to shine light on the far-too-often overlooked crisis on our streets, sidewalks and bikeways. Determination to address the leading cause of death of youth. Determination to make change (See Nov. 22, 2021 Press Release).
At least three other communities in Massachusetts — Brookline, Medford and Springfield — had World Day of Remembrance gatherings.
Leaders Recognize Crisis on our Streets
This year, more influential decisionmakers than ever recognized the dire need for action and joined the calls for change on this World Day of Remembrance. Most notably, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg committed to “urgent action” to prioritize safe mobility.
“A single preventable death is a tragedy. Tens of thousands of them a year is a national crisis – one that demands not just our remembrance, but our urgent action,” said Buttigieg, in recorded remarks released on annual World Day of Remembrance, which honors the 1.3 million people killed in preventable crashes worldwide each year – including more than 42,000 people in the U.S. last year.
“Just about all of us can think of the names of people we care about lost in a crash,” said Buttigieg. “And yet too often these deaths are described as if they’re somehow inevitable, as if it was just the cost of living in the 21st century, when the truth is these deaths can be prevented.”
In a growing movement for change, people in more than 35 communities – ranging from Washington, D.C. to Wichita, KS, and Wheaton MD to Alameda, CA – organized memorials, vigils and rallies yesterday to mourn those killed and injured in crashes and to call on leaders to more aggressively use proven safety solutions to ensure safe mobility for everyone in this nation.
The demands for action are particularly poignant this year. In the first half of 2021, 18.4% more people died in traffic crashes compared to 2020, according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. Last year, 42,060 people died on the U.S. roads, a 24% spike over the prior year’s rate of traffic deaths – the highest rate increase in 96 years – according to the National Safety Council.
In a compelling statement, Jennifer Homendy, Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, called for more than remembrances for those lost in preventable traffic crashes. She called for actions, specifically, including traffic calming measures, lower speeds, requiring technologies to protect people walking and biking, investing in public transit, and more.
“But most of all these victims should be remembered as what they were: flesh & blood. Human. Vulnerable,” Homendy said. “Don’t think of numbers, think of people. Put them at the center of every decision about our road system. That’s the paradigm shift that we need.”
Participation across the nation from other high-profile decisionmakers showed the growing influence of the Vision Zero movement and the recognition that we can and must do more to prevent traffic violence. Other participants included NY Senator and Majority Leader Charles Schumer, newly elected Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Cleveland Mayor-Elect Justin Bibb, NYC Mayor-Elect Eric Adams, and others.
New York City:
Turning Remembrance to Action
After a record-setting turnout for World Day of Remembrance and a growing recognition of the urgency — and ability to prevent — this crisis, what’s next?
Advocates for safety will continue the push for a Congressional Resolution supporting the first-ever, national Zero Traffic Deaths goal and plan. They will work to ensure the forthcoming U.S. Department of Transportation’s national safety plan is ambitious and acted-upon. And they will continue to work at local and state levels to change the status quo of an everyday transportation system that is a leading cause of death.
A few of the actions that leaders could and should take now include:
➔ Granting flexibility from states to allow municipalities to use proven safety strategies, including lower speed limits and Complete Streets designs.
➔ Linking federal funding to explicit safety goals and outcomes, as well as VMT reduction.
➔ Prioritize Safe Systems strategies, such as improved designs of the built environment and speed management, reducing dependence on police-led traffic enforcement.
➔ Adopt federal vehicle safety regulations (modeled on international best practices), particularly those that protect vulnerable road users outside of the vehicle.
➔ Shifting funding and policies at local, state, and federal levels to prioritize safety over speed; encourage safe walking, biking and transit; and focus on locations and communities that are high-injury, and often, underserved areas.
“It is inexcusable that we have the tools and know-how to keep people safe but our elected leaders are neglecting to do so,” says Amy Cohen, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets, whose 12-year-old son Sammy was hit and killed in NYC. “We know that strategies such as lowering speeds and re-designing streets and leveraging proven safety technologies will prevent serious crashes. What we are demanding now is political will to start prioritizing safety above speed.”
“This stepped-up activism and growing recognition from political leaders across the country should be a turning point for the nation,” said Leah Shahum, director of the Vision Zero Network. “Now we recognize that we can and must stem the tens of thousands of traffic deaths and millions more injuries each year. With an influx of transportation funding from the new federal bill, let’s commit to safe mobility above all else.”
Los Angeles, CA:
Wheaton, MD held its first ever World Day of Remembrance that gathered around 60 people including 4 families who delivered heart wrenching stories of loss. The Chair of the National Transportation Board (NTSB) Jennifer Homendy said a few words, and several State delegates, County Councilmembers, and one candidate for Governor read the names of the 85 road traffic victims in Montgomery County in 2020-2021.
New York City:
…and some local events around NYC
Clinton Hill & Ft. Greene:
San Francisco, CA:
In St. Paul, MN, 447 candles were lit up in memory of people who died on the state roads so far.
Jersey City, NJ:
Some of the communities prepared powerful videos and video streams for WDoR.
… and here are some personal stories:
Thank you to all of the organizers of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims around the nation and the world. We stand with you in honoring those injured and lost. And we are ready to redouble our efforts to make change and ensure safe mobility for all.