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American roads: comparatively dangerous, myriad risk catalysts

Yes, traffic engineers can make roads safer in California and every other state, says one safety official, but many drivers find the recipe for achieving that end simply unpalatable.

The fix is unsurprising and decidedly low-tech: Slow things down.

That can mean a combination of things in a given case, ranging from lowered speed limits alone to limits imposed in conjunction with road design that shies away from multiple wide lanes and other enticements that make city streets seem more like interstates.

Is there a need to be focusing upon such modifications in areas across the country, including in Southern California?

Based on relevant statistics underscoring roadway deaths for vehicle occupants and pedestrians, there is indeed such a need, and it is dire.

In fact, notes The Economist in a recent story on what it calls "the perils of American roads," the United States is, comparatively, a very dangerous place to be as a motorist or pedestrian. Reportedly, well more than two million people were injured in motor vehicle-related accidents across the country last year, with one fatality estimate citing 32,675 deaths for 2014.

And, disconcertingly, pedestrian deaths have trended upward in recent years.

Drunk driving is, unsurprisingly, one central catalyst that fuels danger on American roadways. The Economist notes, though, that it is just one of the perils."

Others include the sack lack of motorcyclists opting to wear helmets in many states, the obsession of many Americans with mobile technology (such as smartphones), which many continue to interact with while driving and purposeful road design in locales across the county that encourages fast driving.

None of this is news to Southern California motorists, of course, who regularly ply the roads in what is one of the most complicated and dangerous traffic environments in the country.

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