New Report Identifies 21 Actions to Help States Address Pedestrian Safety
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wherever you go, your journey always begins and ends on foot. But how safe is that walk? A new report released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association examines the current pedestrian safety data and research and outlines 21 steps states can take to address pedestrian safety. According to the most recent data, pedestrian deaths remain stubbornly high. In fact, they have increased 15% since 2009. The most recent full year of data indicates that 4,735 pedestrians died in 2013, which translates to one pedestrian in the United States killed every two hours.
The report, Everyone Walks Understanding and Addressing Pedestrian Safety, looks at legislative, enforcement and educational initiatives at the national, state and local level that work in tandem with engineering solutions to foster safe mobility. Funded through a grant by State Farm®, it provides 21 key takeaways for states and others to consider to help curb pedestrian-involved motor vehicles crashes, injuries and fatalities.
“States are developing and implementing programs to ensure the safety of all roadway users,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins, who oversaw the development of the report. “But clearly more can be done to make travel on foot as safe as possible. Taking a comprehensive approach that includes education, engineering and enforcement is the best way to maximize limited resources and get results. State Highway Safety Offices are tasked with addressing the behavioral side of this issue, the focus of this new report. ”
“Safety is a priority for our organization,” said David Beigie, Vice President – Public Affairs at State Farm. “Our 18,000 agents live and work in the communities they serve, so they understand the importance of pedestrian safety. It’s more than a mobility issue; it’s a quality of life issue and one that we’re committed to helping address through education and grassroots outreach.”
To help states, practitioners and advocates better understand and develop strategies to bolster pedestrian safety, the report examines the extent of the problem, who is likely to be involved in a pedestrian-motor vehicle crash, and why. The average age of a pedestrian killed in a traffic crash in 2013 was 46. Males accounted for 70 percent of those deaths.
Many pedestrian fatalities involve motorists who became unintended pedestrians due to vehicle breakdowns or emergency responders who are struck on the side of the road. In fact, an average of 515 pedestrians are struck and killed annually by a motor vehicle on the nation’s highways.
“It’s incumbent upon states and their partners to educate motorists about how to stay safe in the event of a vehicle breakdown or roadside stop to minimize risk,” said Adkins. “That, coupled with a strong Move Over Law that explains what to do if they encounter a first responder on the side of the road, are critical.” These are two of the report’s key takeaways.
Alcohol, speed and distraction play a role in pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes as well, according to the report. In 2013, a third of pedestrians 16 years of age and older involved in fatal crashes had blood alcohol concentrations of .08 or higher, while 15 percent of motorists who fatally struck pedestrians were also over the legal limit. When it comes to speed, getting motorists to slow down will increase the chances of a pedestrian surviving a crash. However, in 2013 nearly one in five pedestrian fatalities occurred on roadways where the posted limit was less than 35 mph; 28% occurred where the limit was 35 to 40 mph.
The report was authored by noted traffic safety expert Pam Fischer and was guided by an expert panel of state and federal officials, researchers and advocates.
“A key finding in the report,” pointed out Fischer, “is that communities should be allowed to reduce speed limits or establish slow speed zones in areas with a history of pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes as well as in neighborhoods with schools, parks, day care, and senior centers.” The report highlights how cities such as New York, Portland and Seattle have successfully enacted such policies that are credited with reducing vehicle speeds and saving lives.
Distraction’s impact on pedestrian safety is not just a motorist problem. The report cites research that points to an uptick in distracted walkers. While the number of pedestrians killed while using a cell phone increased from less than 1 percent to 3.6 percent between 2004 and 2010, it’s estimated that as many as two million pedestrian injuries were related to cell phone use in 2010. Distraction is particularly problematic for teens – one in five high school students and one in eight middle schoolers have been observed crossing the street while texting, wearing headphones or talking on a cell phone.
“It’s time to expand the focus on the dangers of impairment and distraction to include walking,” said GHSA’s Adkins. “States and their law enforcement partners are encouraged to conduct high visibility enforcement in areas where there’s the potential to reach intoxicated pedestrians such as entertainment districts, sports venues and colleges and universities. Messaging about both unsafe behaviors should target pedestrians as well as motorists.”
Traffic safety officials in Florida and Minnesota as well as in Philadelphia have developed educational messages that do just that. Florida’s Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow campaign includes outreach materials that ask, “What happens when a distracted driver runs into a distracted pedestrian?” Philadelphia is calling on walkers to “Put. Phone. Down.” pointing out that “It’s Road Safety, Not Rocket Science.” Posters and mirror clings displayed in bars and restaurants in Minnesota warn patrons, “Getting smashed at the bar? Don’t get smashed walking home.”
The report’s other key takeaways address funding, data collection, planning, collaboration, training, community engagement, and evaluation. State and local pedestrian safety programs that are taking a comprehensive approach to addressing pedestrian safety or using one or several of the components in a new, innovative and promising way are highlighted as well. These include initiatives in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Nevada, Minnesota, California, Washington, and Hawaii.
An interactive PDF version of the new report, and infographics, are available online. GHSA will hold a webinar on the report on August 12 at 2 p.m. EDT. Register athttps://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7605797286416351233.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org. Find us on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/GHSAhq or follow us on Twitter at @GHSAHQ.
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