Pedestrian safety researchers are hopeful the next decade could bring about significant improvements in road design to bolster walkability and well-being among non-vehicle users.
However in the meantime, we are still grappling with an “epidemic” of pedestrian deaths – some 47,000 between 2003 and 2012, according to the Dangerous by Design 2014 report, released this month by Smart Growth America. Another 676,000 were injured. Not only that, pedestrian deaths accounted for almost 15 percent of all traffic deaths in 2012, which was a 6 percent increase from just a year earlier – and a five-year high.
Perhaps even more troubling for those of us in the South was the indication that those in Sunbelt communities that grew in the post-war period were among the most dangerous places. Charlotte pedestrian accident lawyers recognize that many of these areas developed rapidly, with strong emphases on wide, fast roads that would connect homes to schools, workplaces and shopping facilities. These roads are not often equipped with the safety features necessary when traveling on foot.
Although pedestrian deaths are often labeled as “accidents,” the reality is that most are preventable with more effective policy, design, practice and regulation – similar to the approach taken to prevent motor vehicle deaths.
In order to identify danger zones, researchers came up with the Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI), which is a measure of the likelihood that a person on foot will be struck and killed. It’s based on the number of people who walk, versus how many crashes there are. Nationally for the entire study period, the PDI was 52.2 (with a fatality rate of 1.56 per 100,000 residents).
But in the South, the figures are far worse. In Orlando, the PDI was 245 – four times higher than the national average. Charlotte ranked No. 10, with a PDI of 112 and a total of 254 pedestrian deaths between 2003 and 2012. Others in the Top 10 included Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami, Memphis, Birmingham, Houston and Atlanta. The only city not located in the South was Phoenix. Raleigh ranked No. 16, with a PDI of 100.35 and a total number of pedestrian deaths of 165 during the study period. Virginia beach ranked 36th, with a PDI of 43.6 and 186 pedestrian fatalities.
More than half of these deaths occurred on arterial roadways, which were not designed to handle pedestrian traffic. Vehicle speed was a major factor, with nearly 62 percent of all pedestrian deaths occurring on roads where the posted speed limit was 40-miles-per-hour or higher. Nine percent of fatalities occurred on roads where the speed limit was 30 mph or less.
One bright point in the report, though, was Smart Growth’s highlighting of improvement efforts made in West Jefferson. This mountain town in the northwestern sector of the state was plagued by pedestrian deaths along the state highway that essentially serves as Main Street. It was more or less designed for the passage of large trucks. However, officials were able to work together to effect a series of low-cost safety improvements, which served to make the streets safer for pedestrians and, in turn, result in its evolution as a destination. The redesign included converting traffic signals into four-way stops, extending curbs, increasing on-street parking, painting high-visibility crosswalks, planting trees and installing more benches.
These renovations cost $500,000, and resulted in 10 new businesses, 55 new jobs, a 20 percent increase in tourists, a 33 percent drop in commercial vacancies and a 30 percent decrease in the number of pedestrian crashes.
Officials statewide should take note – and take action.
Contact the Charlotte pedestrian accident lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.
“Dangerous By Design, 2014,” May 2014 Report, Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition
More Blog Entries:
Pedestrian Accidents on the Rise in North Carolina, April 12, 2014, Charlotte Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Blog