Axios Today podcast: America’s roads are becoming more and more deadly


The number of deaths in motor vehicle crashes increased in the first six months of this year – the largest increase on record in the half-year. That’s according to new data from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it’s something Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calls “a crisis.”

  • Plus, inside the fierce New Jersey election.
  • And, the Democrats’ plan for drug prices.

Guests: Nancy Solomon, editor-in-chief for New Jersey Public Radio and WNYC; and Bryan Walsh and Caitlin Owens of Axios.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird and David Toledo. The music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can send questions, comments, and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice message to 202-918-4893.

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NILA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios today!

It’s Thursday, November 4.

I am Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re tracking today: Inside New Jersey’s cutthroat election. Plus, Democrats predict drug prices.

But first, America’s roads are getting more and more deadly… that’s today’s One Big Thing.

The number of road accident victims has increased in the first six months of this year. In fact, this is the biggest half-yearly increase on record. This is according to new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, what Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calls “a crisis.” Axios Future correspondent Bryan Walsh has sought to find out why this is happening. Hi Bryan.


NIALA: What do we see here? And why is the number of deaths in car crashes increasing so much?

BRYAN: Well we are clearly seeing an increase in the number of fatalities in the number of crashes and in terms of why that is happening, I mean it really depends on the behavior of the driver. We have seen real increases in speeding and reckless driving and drivers who have crashes that have some sort of intoxicating drug or alcohol in their system, distracted driving, basically anything that makes driving more. dangerous, Americans are really doing more since the start of the pandemic and it has continued and actually got worse in 2021

NIALA: This increase was therefore 18%. Does that mean then that fewer people were driving last year, so there were fewer fatalities?

BRYAN: In fact, it is not. Um, 38,680 people died on American roads in 2020, which is a 7% increase from the previous year. What’s really interesting is that this happened even though we were riding a lot, a lot less. And you would think that would lead to a drop in deaths. This is not what happened. People took the opportunity to accelerate more, to drive even more recklessly, to leave with more drunkenness. The result was that even if you drove less, the number of fatalities per 1 million kilometers driven per vehicle, as they follow, increased a lot in 2020.

NIALA: We are talking about public health problems surrounding the pandemic. Is this perceived as a public health problem?

BRYAN: It’s seen as a public health issue, but I don’t think it’s getting the attention it deserves given the numbers we’re talking about here. And it is a public health problem in several ways. One simply in the number of people who have been affected, but also in the way the public decisions we make in terms of the design of our roads, the type of traffic control we actually use really makes a difference in terms of who will live and who will die when it comes to car accidents.

NIALA: So it’s not inevitable, because in the United States it seems like “oh, you just get in a car, it’s dangerous”.

BRYAN: Yeah, it really looks like we’ve kind of ditched that. Um, but no, we’ve seen other countries in Europe really succeed in reducing motor vehicle fatalities over the past few decades by redeveloping roads to make speeding more difficult. It seems that in the United States it conveys the automotive culture that we have here. Part of it is the big cars that we have that can be more dangerous, especially for pedestrians who die in huge numbers. But I think so too. These are the same kinds of trends that we see more generally around violence. It’s almost like the pandemic has somehow loosened something in the American psyche, and we’re just acting more recklessly all over the place. And we see this toll on the roads.

NIALA: Bryan Walsh is the future Axios correspondent. Thanks as always Bryan.

BRYAN: Thank you!

NIALA: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with why the New Jersey gubernatorial race is so close.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome to Axios today! I am Niala Boodhoo.

Let’s break down the electoral surprise that unfolded in New Jersey this week. Democrat Phil Murphy, incumbent president, started off as the big favorite in Tuesday’s election, leading the polls in double digits. But his Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli did so well that the election was still too close to be called off much of yesterday. The race was finally called Murphy last night – and to help us figure out what happened, we have Nancy Solomon, who is covering NJ politics for WNYC. Hi Nancy!


NIALA: Why was this election so close and how did no one see this result coming?

NANCY: I certainly didn’t see it coming. You’ve got, you know, Murphy leading in the double digits the last two months and you know he had an even bigger lead over the summer. And, uh, I think, you know, it’s entirely possible that the Democrats saw the results of those polls and thought, you know, out of your busy day, do you really bother to go and vote. ? The guy will win. So why bother? And these off-year elections that New Jersey does, you know, they usually have a low turnout. So, you know, you get this enthusiasm gap. You had Republicans who were really excited about their candidate and who really saw an opportunity to defeat Murphy.

NIALA: Considering everything you’ve said, how important is this to New Jersey politics?

NANCY: I think that’s huge because the narrative around Phil Murphy before this election was that he was the most progressive governor in the country, sort of cementing this idea that New Jersey looks more like a California or more like a Massachusetts. And I think that rolls that back, that moderate, middle-class, largely white commuters are still a force in this state and you have to take that into account.

NIALA: So how important do you think this is to the rest of the country?

NANCY: You know, Phil Murphy has put in place a program over the last four years that’s very, very similar to Biden’s program, the Budget Bill and the Infrastructure Bill and whatever he’s trying to do. , him being Biden. Murphy did a lot of that for New Jersey. And so now, I think with a slide to victory, you could have a democratic party that feels energized and confident that you can win the election by being progressive. And now I think there are going to be some real questions as to whether Murphy was a little out of step with your daily average, you know, a moderate middle class voter in New Jersey.

NIALA: Nancy Solomon is covering New Jersey politics for WNYC joining us from Maplewood, New Jersey. Thanks Nancy.

NANCY: Thank you.

NIALA: Democrats announced this week that they had reached an agreement to lower the prices of Medicare prescription drugs. It’s an issue Democrats have grappled with for years, and it could now end up in President Biden’s Build Back Better social spending plan. Axios healthcare reporter Caitlin Owens has been following these negotiations and is here now with what you need to know. Hi Caitlin,


NIALA: So this agreement has not yet been finalized, but what is important about what it contains so far?

CAITLIN: There are three main pillars of this agreement. So one is Medicare Negotiations, where the government can negotiate with drug companies over drug prices. This has been considerably moderated from what Democrats initially proposed, but some form of medicare negotiations are still in this package. Um, the second part of this is to cap how much drug companies can increase their prices in a year. It is both in Medicare and in the commercial market. And then the third part is a revamp of Medicare Part D, which is the benefit that covers drugs that seniors buy over the counter. A very important part of this is to limit what the elderly will pay out of pocket for their medication.

NIALA: So Caitlin, that’s a lot of, uh, bill texts that you read, that you just got. What are you going to look for? What questions do you have?

CAITLIN: At the end of the day, I think what matters most here is how that will affect what people pay for their drugs, you know, especially the elderly, people with diabetes who need insulin, these people. insulin costs are going to be maintained. There will be people, especially people who take very expensive drugs, who will benefit tremendously. But I can’t wait to see what the experts say about the kind of more comprehensive set of implications.

NIALA: Axios medical journalist Caitlin Owens. Thanks, Caitlin.

CAITLIN: Thank you.

NIALA: Over a billion people around the world today celebrate the South Asian holiday of Diwali, captured by a YouTuber in India.


The multi-day festival – a celebration of light over darkness – is practiced by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist communities. But the number of fireworks set off for the holidays has often caused serious air pollution problems in India. Last year, despite the fireworks ban, Delhi experienced one of the poorest air quality days in its history during this time. So this year there is another ban, and more and more calls to celebrate a Green diwali – without fireworks, reusing decorations and giving plants like gifts.

That’s all we have for you today! I’m Niala Boodhoo – thanks for listening – stay safe and we’ll see you here tomorrow morning.


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