Traffic Design to Keep Pedestrians Safer

 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that traffic fatalities decreased in 2017 and 2018.  These included less fatalities from speeding and impaired drivers.  While these numbers are encouraging, the number of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities has risen and now accounts for almost 20 percent of total traffic deaths in the U.S.  Pedestrian fatality numbers began to increase in 2010 after 30 years of decline.  Projections for 2018 put the number of pedestrian deaths at the highest level in almost 30 years. A pedestrian death occurs about every 90 minutes in the U.S.  A pedestrian accident injury lawyer in Scottsdale, AZ can advise a crash victim regarding legal claims.

The country’s most dangerous locations for pedestrians include Sun Belt cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston and in low-income, predominantly minority neighborhoods. Low income neighborhoods are especially at risk because there tend to be large arterial roads designed to move cars quickly that pose a higher risk to populations who rely on walking and public transportation.

From 2008 to 2017, the average annual rate of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. was 1.5 per 100,000, but using census data to find neighborhoods with a median annual income under $36,000.00 the rate was 2.5 per 100,000 in population.

In Los Angeles, two-thirds of pedestrian deaths and severe injuries from 2009 to 2013 occurred on just 6% of city streets.  These roads are mostly arterial streets with speed limits over 40 miles per hour, with sidewalks right next to the high speed traffic, and few crosswalks, but that is where the stores, restaurants and buses are, so pedestrians are forced to share the road with the vehicles.  A pedestrian accident injury lawyer can investigate the negligence of the parties, and determine applicable insurance coverage.

After spikes in traffic fatalities from 2013 to 2016, many cities adopted “Project Zero,” a program from Sweden, to decrease serious traffic injuries and fatalities.  The program’s philosophy is that these fatalities are preventable through a “systems based approach” that includes physically separating pedestrians from traffic and lowering speed limits.

New York City and San Francisco were both initially very successful with Vision Zero. New York City saw pedestrian deaths drop 45% from 2013 to 2017, and San Francisco reported a 41% drop in traffic fatalities.

Some cities don’t consider a Vision Zero plan to be an option.  Phoenix, AZ has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the country.  The numbers have gone up 125% in the last 10 years, but the City Council has voted against pedestrian safety measures two times.  One councilman posted on Facebook that Vision Zero is an “insane scheme” that aims “to force everyone out of their cars.”

Vision Zero focuses on changing street design to keep pedestrians safe, but changes to car design also provide an opportunity to decrease serious injuries and fatalities.  The European Union began requiring pedestrian safety measures on vehicles in the early 2000s, and pedestrian deaths fell by 36% from 2007 to 2016.

Japan has required similar design changes to vehicles and has seen pedestrian deaths drop.  NHTSA recognized that these new requirements have contributed to decreases in pedestrian fatalities in Europe and Japan.  Some safety experts say that these standards should be adopted worldwide to keep pedestrians safer.  A pedestrian accident injury lawyer should be consulted following a crash resulting in serious injuries, the legal process can be explained, there should be no fees or costs unless a settlement is obtained.

For more information, contact the office of Paul Englander, PLC today.