Over the past decade, 49,340 pedestrians were killed while walking American streets with people on the margins of society disproportionally represented.
According to Dangerous by Design 2019, a study on pedestrian fatalities
published Wednesday by Smart Growth America and the National Complete
Streets Coalition, America has become 35 percent more dangerous for
pedestrians over the last 10 years despite overall traffic fatalities
"We are killing an airliner's worth of people walking each and every
month - and these numbers are increasing," National Complete Streets
Coalition Director Emiko Atherton said. "This is a wake-up call for all
Atherton called the situation "a preventable epidemic."
Black people and American Indians are disproportionally at risk as the
most dangerous roads are located near communities of color, the study
said, adding that "implicit bias" was also to blame as drivers are more
likely to yield to a white pedestrian at a crosswalk than to a person of
Those in poorer communities are also at greater risk with people in
communities with a median household income up to $36,000 over twice as
represented in fatalities than those in communities with median incomes
between $79,000 and $250,000.
The study also found that those over the age of 50 were
disproportionately represented in fatal crashes, with those over 75
facing the greatest relative pedestrian danger due to sight, hearing and
"Many places still lack the most basic infrastructure for walking," the
report said. "For example, crosswalks, if they do exist at all, are
often spaced so far apart as to be impractical, or don't provide enough
time for older adults to cross safely."
Lane width was a determining factor in the likelihood of a pedestrian
surviving a collision, the report found, as the wider the lane, the
faster vehicles could drive around corners.
Nancy Somerville, executive vice president and CEO of the American
Society of Landscape Architects, said in a statement that she welcomed
"Too often, danger is built right into our nation's streets, especially
in communities with large elderly populations and people of color,"
Somerville said. "Strong policies are needed that will allow landscape
architects to continue to put good street designs to work to reduce
unnecessary risks and make sure our transportation systems equitably
serve all Americans."
The report ranks states and metropolises based on their "Pedestrian
Danger Index" for 2019, which calculates how deadly a location is based
on the number of pedestrians struck and killed by vehicles, while
controlling for the number of people who live in the location and the
number of those who walk to work.
The greater Orlando area was named the most dangerous metropolis in
America followed by the metropolis of Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond
Beach, the area of Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville and the district of
North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, all in the state of Florida.
Florida was by far the most dangerous state with Alabama coming in second, followed by Delaware and Luisiana.
"It is critically important we reverse this trend," said Orlando's
transportation director Billy Hattaway. "The only acceptable number of
pedestrian deaths is zero and the city is doing everything in its power
to achieve this goal."
The safest state for pedestrians in 2019 was Vermont, according to the study.
The report is calling on all levels of government to improve pedestrian
safety be designing roads to reduce speeds and prioritize projects that
will help prevent the deaths of those most disproportionally represented
in the study.
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