Worldwide health events that occurred in 2020 and 2021 resulted in many people going out much less than usual. Many worked from home rather than commuting. The broader situation all meant fewer vehicles on the road. In turn, many more people started to travel around by bicycle or foot partially because they now felt safer using the roads and partially because any excuse to get out of the house tended to be welcome during this period of time.
At the same time, some motorists took advantage of those empty roads to drive more aggressively and flout the laws because they knew that the police were so busy with other things that getting stopped was unlikely. Statistics suggest that as more cars returned to the roads, aggressive behaviors led to an increase in drivers injuring and killing pedestrians and cyclists.
Staff and students at Valdosta State University took action
Rather than focusing on theoretical situations, staff at the university decided to get the students to work on this issue that is very relevant to them. They wanted to understand why drivers have been injuring and killing those who travel on foot or by bicycle in their area and what can be done to prevent it.
The criminal justice and sociology departments had students analyze crash data and give their personal reflections on the results. Other departments worked to create a tool to assess the bikeability of South Georgia’s 18 counties. Universities don’t control town planning or the road system, so the work was done in conjunction with and presented to the South Georgia Regional Commission for consideration.
While local and federal governments should all take major steps to increase safety for people who travel on bikes and on foot, each injury or death is caused by a person in charge of a vehicle. If it’s you that they injure, or a loved one they kill, you’ll need to understand how to hold them responsible for compensation.