In 2021, my 5-year-old daughter was hit and killed by a vehicle. Allison was one of 42,939 Americans violently taken from us by traffic violence that year. Allie was doing something any kid might do: riding her bike after school. She was riding her bicycle in a crosswalk – in a school zone – just a block away from our home. Her 40-pound body was no match for the transit van that struck and killed her.
Our lives were shattered in an instant. I will never forget the disbelief and horror I felt that night, walking away from the body of my only child, who had been so vibrant and joyful just hours before. A mundane Monday turned into a living nightmare.
Preventable crashes like Allie’s happen every day, all across the United States. And things are getting worse, particularly compared to peer countries. In the U.S., the number of pedestrians killed by drivers just hit a 40-year high.
It is outrageous that our vehicle safety rating system only applies to the safety of those inside the vehicle, and does not take into account those outside. Vehicles on our roads are 24 percent bigger than they were in the year 2000, and they have bigger hoods and often worse visibility. It is no surprise that they are also disproportionately deadly for pedestrians, cyclists, and those driving smaller vehicles. Their “five-star” safety ratings tell a dangerously one-sided story. It doesn’t have to be this way, and we must take action.
Join me during the current public comment period to demand that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) include a vehicle’s risk of killing a pedestrian within their five-star safety rating system.
SUV-related injuries rose 91% and fatalities increased 75% between 2016 and 2019. For every 1,000 pounds a vehicle weighs, crashes are 46% more deadly, so as American cars get bigger and heavier, deaths will only continue to climb. People deserve to know if the vehicle they are about to purchase is one of the most deadly cars on the market.
NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation must do the common-sense thing and expand the safety system to truly protect everyone. Please join me and my family and send a message to Secretary Buttigieg and demand this change right away.
Jessica Riester Hart
P.S. After Allie’s death, members of Families for Safe Streets reached out to us to offer support and, when we were ready, opportunities to advocate on Allie’s behalf. Contact Families for Safe Streets if you have been impacted by traffic violence. You are not alone in this immeasurable grief; we’re here to help.