Road deaths fell in Philadelphia in 2019, according to data collected by the Philadelphia Police Department and media reports scanned by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. Just how much they fell is open to interpretation. But either way, a decline is a decline. And in this case, decline is good.
According to PPD data, the number of traffic fatalities in Philadelphia was 90 in 2019.
However, when counting just deaths on city-owned streets caused by vehicles, the number of total deaths is 82.
The Bicycle Coalition did our own analysis, and counted 86.
All ways of looking at the number of total fatalities represents a decline from 2018, when 103 people died in traffic in Philadelphia, including 21 people on Roosevelt Boulevard.
The City of Philadelphia has a good explainer showing what they count and don’t count in their own Vision Zero fatals number. As they note, the fatalities number is based on research both by the Philadelphia Police Department and PennDOT. PennDOT and PPD differ in how they record crash data. This chart from a Vision Zero post on Phila.gov explains it:
The decline — whether it’s down to 90 or 82 — is obviously very good. Even Roosevelt Boulevard traffic deaths declined by more than half between 2018 and 2019. But this isn’t a time for celebration.
Traffic deaths in Philadelphia cannot really be looked at in year-to-year data. Until we begin seeing a real downward trend of traffic deaths over at least a 5-year span, it will be difficult to say the decline in fatalities is because of one variable or another.
And pedestrians still represent a stubbornly high number of traffic deaths in Philadelphia. All told, 31 of the 90 traffic deaths were pedestrians (that number is reduced when subtracting for pedestrians killed by trains, and suicides, which is how PennDOT and Vision Zero crunch their numbers).
But whether pedestrians represent 33 percent or 31 percent of traffic fatalities, it’s way too high. Vehicles continue getting bigger and people driving those vehicles are increasingly distracted, putting everyone at serious risk.
Details of traffic victims can be found at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia-created website PHLtrafficvictims.org