According to a recent article in JS Online, and traffic statistics from the Wisconsin DOT, the three year average for fatalities in cars and light trucks has reached a number not seen since World War II.
While the number of fatalities among operators of cars has steadily decreased, the number for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists continues to rise. Last year alone saw an increase of about 30% in pedestrian fatalities.
Reasons suggested for the discrepancy include an increase in the number of people walking, bicycling, and motorcycling.
While I don't disagree that there may be an increase in walkers, bikers, and motorcyclists, my personal opinion is that the number of distracted drivers on the road today has increased dramatically. Bicyclists and others provide a narrow silhouette to a driver texting behind the wheel. Texting drivers may be able to see another car or truck out of the corner of their eye, but easily miss a bicyclist, especially if not expecting the bicyclist to be there in the first place. Obviously, bikers and walkers also face greater likelood of death or injury compared to another driver who is hit by a car. Distraction, combined with road rage from people who spend too much time on the roads, leads to more injuries. Unlike Illinois' tough new laws protecting bicyclists, Wisconsin drivers who injure or kill bicyclists generally do not face criminal penalties and instead are only subject to a very small fine.
Suggested ways to make the roads safer for people other than drivers of cars include things like, bike boxes, traffic beacons, more bicyclists on the roads, anti-texting laws, and driver education. Another very important aspect is everyone trying to work together rather than creating divisions of motorists vs. bicyclists.