Study Finds Street Crossing Designs Pose Pedestrian Danger
Crossing the street is becoming more dangerous for pedestrians in the US. A recent report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that 2016 was the deadliest year for US pedestrians since 1996, with the early data showing that 5,997 pedestrians died in traffic accidents. This is an 11 percent jump from 2015.
This latest rise in pedestrian fatalities is part of a dangerous upward trend. Pedestrian deaths in traffic accidents rose by 12 percent overall, rising from 4,795 to 5,376 in the period from 2006 to 2015, despite the total number of traffic deaths decreasing from 42,708 to 35,092 over that same period. Pedestrians now make up 15 percent of all traffic deaths on an annual basis, a figure that appears set to climb in the future.
GHSA spokeswoman Kara Macek noted that while cars have a much-improved constitution thanks to tech and design improvements made over the years, the human body is still as susceptible today as it has been in the past.
While both driver and pedestrian errors remain a factor in accidents, recent research points to engineering as another driving force behind this deadly trend. Many areas lack safe walking environments by the nature of their very design, an issue that was recently raised by two studies released over the last year that found this problem was even more prevalent in immigrant and low-income neighborhoods.
One such paper, which was completed by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center of North Carolina, found that immigrant, low-income and minority communities are less likely to be situated near roads with safe and accessible bicycle and pedestrians pathways. Krista Nordback, a center senior researcher, noted that both the speed and mobility of motor vehicles tends to be prioritized over safety when it comes to road design in many places.
The center’s findings were echoed by another nonprofit, the Washington-based Smart Growth America, in their “Dangerous by Design” report. According to that report, wide-lane streets that lack safety features like pedestrian crossings and sidewalks encourage people to drive fast and increase the risk to all the pedestrians on them. The WA nonprofit reported that minorities overall had a higher pedestrian fatality rate than whites and that affluent communities were safer for pedestrians than low-income ones in general.
Federal Highway Administration spokesman Doug Hecox responded to the reports, saying that some of these issues stemmed from aging infrastructure that states don’t have the money to fix on their own. Hecox said that many urban streets were designed back in the 1950s, when most people drove, and things have changed since then, with more people walking, biking and running these days than ever before. Safety improvements come at a cost, noted the spokesman, and many states already struggle to keep up with simple maintenance tasks like filling potholes.
If you or someone you care about was injured by a motor vehicle while walking, biking or jogging, speak to an experienced pedestrian
Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Offices of Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into pedestrian accidents.