Urban areas in Maryland and around the country are getting more dangerous for road users. Traffic accident fatalities in rural areas fell by 10% between 2010 and 2019, but that positive news was more than offset by a worrying 34% rise in road deaths in cities and large towns. This rise in urban car accident fatalities is largely due to growing city populations and increased traffic congestion, but the data suggests that speeding is also playing a significant role.
Speed limits are usually much higher in rural areas with few intersections, but fatal motor vehicle accidents are not very common because traffic is normally light on these roads. City streets have much lower speed limits, but they are far more dangerous because of congestion, an abundance of distractions and the unpredictable behavior of other road users. When researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety studied speed-related urban accidents, they discovered that almost half of the fatal crashes occurred on roads where the posted speed limit was 35 mph or lower.
Cyclists and pedestrians
The AAA study also reveals that about one in three of road users killed in urban accidents were either cyclists or pedestrians, and the crashes that claimed these lives took place on streets with speed limits between 30 mph and 45 mph about 70% of the time. The number of vehicle miles traveled in cities and towns is expected to rise sharply in the years ahead, which means the problem of speed-related urban accidents is likely to get worse.
Speed cameras that capture the license plates of speeding motorists could be an effective weapon in the fight against urban speeding, but Maryland only permits them in work zones, school zones and residential areas. If these cameras were installed on city streets, the number of speed-related fatalities would likely fall. Speed cameras could also provide cities with a new and much-needed source of revenue.