Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dangerous By Design - a report on pedestrian safety (or lack thereof)

The toll is stunning - In the last 10 years, 47,700 pedestrians have been killed by vehicles in the United States.  It's the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing every month for ten years.

In a new report, Transportation for America examines the alarming death rate for pedestrians on America's roadways, and identifies ways such deaths are preventable.  Dangerous by Design 2011: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods) finds that one of the biggest contributors to pedestrian fatalities is the way streets are designed.  An overwhelming proportion of these pedestrian deaths occurred along “arterial” roads, multilane roads through populated areas designed for speeding cars with little or no consideration for people on foot, in wheelchairs, or on bicycles.  These deaths, from the simple act of walking, are preventable with safer street design that incorporate traffic calming, road diets, complete streets policies and Safe Routes to School programs.

The report includes alarming data on Delaware Valley residents killed while walking over a ten year period from 2000-2009.  (read more below)

Among the report's findings:
  • The 11-county Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is the 3rd most dangerous metropolitan area for walking in the Northeast.
  • 18% of the region's total traffic deaths were pedestrians.
  • 965 pedestrians were killed in the region - roughly equivalent to the population of Millbourne, PA.
  • 333 pedestrian deaths were reported in the City of Philadelphia, which accounted for 30% of all traffic deaths.
People of color and seniors are disproportionately represented in pedestrian fatalities.  From 2000-2007, the average pedestrian death rate for Hispanics was 50% higher than non-Hispanic whites. The average pedestrian death rate for African Americans was 64% higher than non-Hispanic whites.

From 2000 to 2007, 159 children 15 years and younger were killed while walking in PA.  Nationwide, pedestrian injury is the 3rd leading cause of death by unintentional injury for children 15 and younger.

According to the report, state DOTs nationwide have largely failed to prioritize pedestrian safety investments, allocating only 1.5% of available federal funds to projects that retrofit dangerous roads or create safe alternatives. 
Making roads safer for all users involves a strategy that focuses on engineering, education and enforcement. When roads are constructed or rehabilitated they must be redesigned to make them safer for pedestrians. Law enforcement needs to enforce the laws against speeders, red light runners and those who fail to yield to pedestrians.  And finally, a well funded public safety campaign using television and print media that ties all of the efforts together is needed to build the public awareness that careless driving kills and maims.

Click Here to see an interactive map of pedestrians deaths in the region.