Originally published on Smart Growth America.
Between 2008 and 2017, drivers struck and killed 49,340 people who were walking on streets all across the United States. That’s more than 13 people per day, or one person every hour and 46 minutes. It’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people crashing—with no survivors—every single month.
Dangerous by Design 2019 takes a closer look at this alarming epidemic.
We can and must do more to reduce the number of people who die while walking every day on our roadways. For too long we have disregarded this problem by prioritizing moving cars at high speeds over safety for everyone. It’s past time for that to change. Protecting the safety of all people who use the street—especially the people most vulnerable to being struck and killed—needs to be a higher priority for policymakers, and this priority must be reflected in the decisions we make about how to fund, design, operate, maintain, and measure the success of our roads.
In the past decade, the number of people struck and killed while walking increased by 35 percent. Though fatalities decreased ever so slightly in 2017, the last two years on record (2016 and 2017) were the most deadly years for people killed by drivers while walking since 1990.
This report ranks states and metropolitan areas around the country using our “Pedestrian Danger Index”, or PDI. This index measures how deadly it is for people to walk based on the number of people struck and killed by drivers while walking, controlling for the number of people that live in that state or metro area and the share of people who walk to work. The 2019 edition of Dangerous by Design includes traffic deaths that occurred between 2008 and 2017 from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a national database of all fatal traffic crashes.
This report shows that our streets are not getting safer for everyone.
Even more so, while traffic deaths impact every community in the United States, states and metropolitan areas across the southern continental United States, older adults, people of color, and people walking in low-income communities bear a higher share of this harm.
Why is this happening?
We’re not walking more, and we’re only driving slightly more than we were back in 2008. Yet even as driving got safer from 2008-2017, significantly more people walking were struck and killed.
This is happening because our streets, which we designed for the movement of vehicles, have not changed. In fact, we are continuing to design streets that are dangerous for all people. Furthermore, federal and state policies, standards, and funding mechanisms still produce roads that prioritize high speeds for cars over safety for all people.
To reverse this trend and save lives, we need to protect all users of the transportation system through our policies, programs, and funding.
The most dangerous states and metro areas
Based on PDI, the 20 most dangerous metro areas for walking in the United States are:
Based on PDI, the 20 most dangerous states for walking in the United States are:
What can and should be done
Our federal government needs to take the lead on prioritizing safer streets. Federal dollars and policies helped create these unsafe streets in the first place. And federal funds, policies, and guidance have a significant role to play in fixing these streets and in designing the streets we’ll build tomorrow.
We call on Congress to adopt a strong, federal Complete Streets policy that requires state departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to consistently plan for all people who use the street, including the most vulnerable users.
We call on state DOTs and MPOs to put people first and give their organizations the tools and training they need to create transportation networks that serve all users.
We call on the over 1,400 communities that have adopted a Complete Streets policy to turn their vision into practice and implementation.
And we call on you to demand safer streets from the elected officials in your communities.
Dangerous by Design 2019 was made possible by the support of AARP, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates
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