Report: Palm Springs among top 25 small cities with highest roadway fatality rates

Calculating rates for anything in Palm Springs proves difficult since the city’s full-time population and its in-season population can vary widely, often skewing the math.
The intersection of Ramon Road and Sunrise Way is one of the city’s busiest and often among its most dangerous for both motorists and pedestrians.

City leaders and others who frequently express alarm at the number of transportation fatalities here may have a good reason, a report last week appears to confirm.

Driving the news: Data from a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, released Thursday, shows Palm Springs has some of the highest roadway fatality rates in the nation for a city its size.

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  • With a population of 44,575 and 79 roadway fatalities between 2016 and 2020, the fatality rate in Palm Springs is 35.45 per 100,000 people. That’s high enough to place it in the top 25 among smaller cities. Malibu, with a population of 10,000, also made the top 25 with 21 fatalities and a rate of 39.42.

  • Riverside County scored lower-than-median fatalities relative to its population, as did Los Angeles and Orange counties.

In context: Calculating rates for anything in Palm Springs proves difficult since the city’s full-time population and its in-season population can vary widely, skewing the math. However, city officials aren’t worried about how the data is calculated; they want safer streets.

  • In 2021, the city commissioned a 182-page report that identified the worst roadways for pedestrians here. The report also made three dozen recommendations to improve street safety.

  • In April 2022, the city began lowering speed limits on three dozen streets, a move made possible by a new state law that went into place at the start of that year.

Why it matters: In the United States, more than 370,000 people died in transportation incidents between 2011-2020. While the overall fatality rate had been declining consistently for 30 years, progress stalled during that decade. It began climbing again in 2020.

  • Experts cite reckless and distracted driving and record performance and weight of vehicles as factors in the rise.

What they’re saying: “The status quo is unacceptable, and it is preventable,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in the report. “We know it’s preventable because bold cities in the United States and countries abroad have achieved tremendous reductions in roadway deaths.”

Next steps: Data associated with the report will be used to pinpoint roadway improvement funding that can reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries

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