From Boise to Boston, Durham to Denver, Omaha to Orlando, communities across North America mobilized for Safe Streets to Save Lives, as part of annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims on Sunday, November 20, 2022.
A record number of communities across the U.S. — more than 60 — and hundreds more worldwide led actions calling attention and urgency to the roadway safety crisis. Last year, 42,915 people were killed in roadway crashes in the U.S. – the highest number since 2005.
Notably, advocates’ calls for change were reinforced by the nation’s Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who acknowledged that “mourning is not enough,” as he recognized World Day of Remembrance:
“We could be doing more, as a country and as a society, to make sure that nobody – no family, no dinner table, no workplace or sports team – has to have an empty place because of a preventable crash”(read more from the Secretary and watch a recording of his comments below).
World Day of Remembrance organizers highlighted that the record number of fatal crashes are not isolated, inevitable incidents, but are both predictable and preventable. They pointed to well-proven solutions that can and should be put in place, including:
- Designing roads and setting policies for Safety over Speed
- Ensuring Complete Streets serve all road users, and
- Updating vehicle design standards to match stronger safety standards elsewhere in the world
(Read more about how Vision Zero is Possible)
Activities ranged from memorial walks and bike rides, candle lighting vigils, shoe memorials, sign installations, and (a first!) a ribbon cutting ceremony on the first-of-its-kind Memorial Grove for Victims of Traffic Violence. Following are a sampling of World Day of Remembrance events across the nation:
In Washington, D.C., hundreds of people had a Ride for Your Life event – a bike ride in memory of Sarah Langenkamp, a U.S. Diplomat who was struck and killed while bicycling this year.
In Madison, WI, the press conference was opened by the Mayor, who lost her grandfather and a brother in traffic crashes. A moving memorial with figures symbolizing those that Madison lost in traffic crashes over the past five years had been set up during the weekend.
In Albany, NY, the event was organized by Albany Bicycle Coalition, Walkable Albany and Parks & Trails New York, who are advocating for policy changes to reduce the number of deaths and injuries in the city.
In Los Angeles, CA, advocates, elected officials and transportation safety professionals joined together to install a rainbow halo in memory of Josh Markowitz, who was hit and killed in Los Angeles in 2021. (Hear from Josh’s mother, Lori, in a piece linked below.)
In Philadelphia, PA, people gathered to remember 102 people that have been killed in traffic crashes this year and called for the expansion of safety strategies citywide.
In New York City, members of the NYC chapter of Families for Safe Streets organized a ribbon cutting ceremony on the nation’s first memorial tree grove being planted for traffic victims. They called on the New York State Legislature to approve a package of bills focused on safe speeds, safe vehicles, safe roads, and support for those personally impacted. They were joined by many elected official, including the Mayor and City Council members (see more below).
Many other communities around the country gathered for rallies, memorial walks and making memorials:
New Communities Step Up Actions for Safe Streets
For some communities, including Omaha, NE; Louisville, KY; Fresno, CA; and Lancaster, CA, this was the first year to commemorate World Day of Remembrance.
Another pedestrian killed today in Louisville. Another name to add to the list. Another reason for tonight’s vigil in honor of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. #WDoR2022 pic.twitter.com/S24PrFa9QZ
— Vision Zero Louisville (@VisionZero_Lou) November 21, 2022
Events were organized by those who lost loved ones, government staff, community advocates, and more – all who recognize that the 115 traffic deaths that happen every single day on our streets are just unacceptable. Each of the events above and dozens more across the nation (see more images/links below) — tell stories of loss and suffering.
However, 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 a leading – and preventable – cause of death, especially amongst our youth. Determination to make change.
Zero deaths on our roadways means creating an effective safety culture, one that keeps everyone safe both inside and outside of vehicles. pic.twitter.com/F7TriOTcKJ
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) November 21, 2022
U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, recognized that “mourning is not enough,” and pledged to “ending this crisis on our roadways and creating a safer transportation system so that more families do not have to share this grief.”
In a lead-up to World Day of Remembrance, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg participated in a fireside chat with the National Safety Council’s CEO Lorraine Martin and Families for Safe Streets co-founder Amy Cohen, whose 12-year-old son Sammy was tragically killed in a traffic crash in 2013. Watch a brief clip (1:15 mins) and the full discussion (about 28 mins) of the conversation on the urgency of this national roadway safety crisis and the power we have to make that change.
Secretary Buttigieg underscored the need to de-normalize the roadway safety crisis and to make significant and lasting change:
“If there were any other…form of transp where we were losing 40,000 loved ones, co-workers, friends every year, we would be up in arms, and yet we’ve gotten bathed in this level of tragedy to where, maybe, we are too inclined to think of it as normal. I think it is one of the things that we can change.”
The Secretary emphasized that setting and advancing the goal of zero traffic deaths is the right action:
“I think we can move toward a future where it is puzzling, even quaint, to future historians that we could have experienced or tolerated the level of roadway deaths that are routine right now in the United States. I believe we’ll live to see that future but it depends on the choices we make right now. And that does require a paradigm shift.”
The conversation with Secretary Buttigieg offered an important opportunity to humanize the grim roadway safety statistics with personal experiences of grief and loss shared by too many people. Amy Cohen, of Families for Safe Streets, shared a photo of her son Sammy, who was hit and killed at age 12. She described Sammy to the Secretary: He was bright, curious, funny, kind and he lit up a room with his smile.
Like so many other family members and friends who channeled their own drive into action on World Day of Remembrance, Cohen reminds us all that we have the power to do more to ensure safety, but we must show the political will to make change. She shared:
“We have not historically invested in safe roadway design and safe vehicles the way other high income nations have. Families like mine have paid the highest price for society’s failure to act.”
Watch the clips of the conversation with Amy Cohen, Secretary Buttigieg and Lorraine Martin, of National Safety Council.
In a compelling World Day of Remembrance statement, Jennifer Homendy, Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), highlighted some of the agency’s past safety recommendations, many of which have not been embraced by key stakeholders in government and industry (read her full statement here).
“We must fight for road users around the world who deserve to be safe. We must fight for those whose lives are forever changed by traffic violence. We must fight for those who are no longer here to fight for themselves. For all these people and more, the NTSB will keep fighting. And so will I.”
Other leaders around the nation and world also shared the messages:
For every New Yorker who has lost a loved one to traffic violence, the Memorial Grove at Lincoln Terrace says our entire city stands with you.
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) November 20, 2022
I joined Families For Safe Streets, the @VisionZero4NJ and families of traffic crash victims to commemorate World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
— Phil Cohen 🇺🇦 (@PhilipHCohen) November 20, 2022
Thank you to @ffxsafestreets for holding today’s World Day of Remembrance event. It’s important to remember the 22 people we’ve lost from preventable traffic crashes here in Fairfax County. pic.twitter.com/a4rM56Gw3v
— Dalia Palchik (@SupvPalchik) November 20, 2022
Oregon State Rep Khanh Pham and her daughter (in purple) hold the banner in a group photo:
— Councilman Mark Jeffreys (@ccc_jeffreys) November 21, 2022
It was so meaningful to have 4/5 of next year’s @ACHD commissioners at the event, including @alexis4achd, @hansenjim, @Gold4ACHD, and Kent Goldthorpe. That level of representation at a safety event would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
— Joe Jaszewski (@joeja) November 20, 2022
More Events Memorializing Crash Victims and Urging Change
In Tempe, AZ, they placed displays at intersections closest to where traffic fatalities occurred, to remember and honor the 14 lives lost on Tempe streets.
In Delaware County, OH, they displayed wreaths with the names of each of the 13 traffic crash victims that were taken in 2022 at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Delaware Post.
Today we remembered those who were killed while walking, biking and driving on our streets.
— Evan Glass (@EvanMGlass) November 20, 2022
Today we remembered victims of road violence at the Statehouse. It’s always sobering to be reminded that behind the constant headlines of people being maimed and killed on our roads, there are families left behind with a hole in them that never gets filled. #WDoR2022 pic.twitter.com/n419euNmoW
— Joe Jaszewski (@joeja) November 20, 2022
Walk Bike Springfield hosted a #WDoR2022 event at the Springfield Central Library.
Each fatal crash victim in Hampden County in 2022 was represented by a pair of yellow shoes, participants tied ribbons with crash dates on each pair as details were shared about each incident. pic.twitter.com/6vUSR0Elzf
— MassBike (@MassBike) November 20, 2022
We had a great ride in spite of the cold in honor of Austin this morning! Thanks to everyone who joined us on the ride, those that help advocate for #SafeStreets, and everyone across the world observing #WDoR2022 #VisionZero #Pittsburgh pic.twitter.com/VF4DfKxGmE
— South Hills Safe Streets (@hills_safe) November 20, 2022
Thank you WalkBike Worcester & @Etel_Haxhiaj for co-hosting the Day of Remembrance in honor of traffic deaths and injuries in front of Chandler Magnet this afternoon. (Sorry the video got cut off at the end). pic.twitter.com/acH2sG04hd
— Ben White (@speedofwhite) November 20, 2022
Why World Day of Remembrance Matters
We encourage you to hear directly from those who are closest to this issue, particularly those who’ve been hit and injured, and others who have lost loved ones in cashes. Following are a few of the stories they shared leading up to World Day of Remembrance:
Laura Keenan, whose husband Matt was hit and killed in San Diego, CA, has organized a chapter of Families for Safe Streets in her community and brought attention to the safety crisis.
Dan Langenkamp, whose wife Sarah was hit and killed while she was biking in Maryland after dropping her kids at school. The family had only recently relocated from Ukraine for safety reasons. Dan organized a massive memorial ride and rally ending at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
Lori Markowtiz, whose son Josh was hit and killed in Los Angeles, CA, joined advocates for safe streets in that city to call for change. They honored Josh at a vigil and dedicated a rainbow halo in his memory.
Robert Griendling, who was hit and severely injured by a driver while he was biking last year, points out the many safety changes places like his community – Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay region in Florida – can make for safe streets.
And in this Streetsblog USA column, Vision Zero Network’s Executive Director Leah Shahum reminds us to stay angry and active after World Day of Remembrance passes.
Turn Your Remembrance Into 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?
Here are some ways you can get involved in the work ahead:
- Use your position – whether that’s a passionate community member, a school board official, or a city planner – to show people that we can, and must, reach Vision Zero.
- Write letters to the editor of your local paper and contact media stations to educate them on why words matter — because “crashes” are not “accidents”. We HAVE the tools to limit crashes.
- Request a meeting with your city council representative to discuss the unsafe locations in your district and stay persistent until they fix dangerous streets in your community.
- Learn about and support the work of Vision Zero Network, Families for Safe Streets, It Could Be Me & Road to Zero Coalition.
- Stay up to date on Vision Zero work happening across the country by subscribing to our monthly Vision Zero e-news.
- Mark your calendar for the next World Day of Remembrance – November 19, 2023 – and bring awareness for the next 364 days and beyond.
Thank you to everyone who poured their hearts into organizing for World Day of Remembrance to Remember, Support & Act. We stand with you, and we’ll keep working for change.