If you’re a pedestrian—and who isn’t?—this week’s WIRED Transportation missives are decidedly grim. If you’re riding in a car, American roads are only getting safer. According to figures from the US Department of Transportation released this week, vehicle-related deaths fell by 2.4 percent last year. But 6,677 pedestrians died in 2018, a 3.4 percent increase from 2017. What’s to blame? Potential factors include a tick up in distracted driving, more gigantic SUVs and trucks on the road, and streets that are more designed to get traffic moving swiftly than people moving safely. On the last point: Some engineers are trying to build more fun, friendly, and maybe even safer crosswalks, but the federal government—the same one that put out those safety stats!—is not yet convinced that kind of street design works. At least one Iowa town is going ahead with a rainbow crosswalk anyway.
Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week
Drivers of the Week
The bestest motorist of the week award goes to the 17 rats who participated in a University of Richmond study published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research. Researchers taught the rats how to operate copper car steering wheels built into plastic food containers on wheels. Is it adorable? Certainly yes. Does it make larger points about the elasticity of animal brains, and what happens when minds are challenged with increasingly complex tasks? Maybe yes!
Stat of the Week