A May 20 Sustainable Cities Network article highlighted a recent report by Smart Growth America that looked at pedestrian fatalities and created a “pedestrian danger index” (PDI) for 51 major metropolitan areas. The report found that from the 2003 to 2012 period, 47,000 pedestrians were killed (sixteen times the number of people who died in natural disasters) and that most of those pedestrian deaths could have been prevented. The report also correlated higher pedestrian deaths with lower density development and rapid growth.
As in past years, Sunbelt communities that grew in the post-war period top the list of most dangerous regions according to the PDI: Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Miami, Memphis, Birmingham, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte. These areas developed rapidly, with many low-density neighborhoods overly dependent on extra wide, fast arterial roads to connect homes, schools, jobs and shops. Such roads rarely feature the facilities needed for safe travel by foot. …
More than half of all pedestrian fatalities occur on arterial roads, and more than 60 percent of these tragedies occur on roads with speed limits of 40 mph or higher. Speeding is a factor in nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities, nearly 10,000 lives lost each year. Speeding not only increases the likelihood of crashes with people on foot, it increases the probability that those crashes will cause injuries that are far more serious. At 20 mph, the risk of death to a person on foot struck by the driver of a vehicle is 6 percent. At 45 mph, the risk of death is 65 percent.
The only Maryland specific metropolitan region included in the study was Baltimore-Towson that had a PDI ranking of 28 out of 51 (lower is better). Maryland was also included in two multi-state metro areas: (1) Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington (ranked 34); and (2) Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (ranked 35). Each state was also analyzed separately – Maryland’s data is broken down both by metropolitan area and county. The data for Maryland showed that 1,067 pedestrians were killed between 2003 and 2012, representing 18.4% of traffic-related fatalities. Maryland’s calculated PDI placed it 15th nationally (a lower ranking is better).
The report recommended that federal action be taken to hold states accountable for reducing pedestrian deaths through better design and planning:
The federal government needs to hold states accountable for setting and making real progress toward significantly reducing the number and severity of traffic crashes. We need to adopt a proactive Complete Streets policy so that new transportation projects consider the needs of all users. We need to adopt and use design guides that treat the streets in our communities differently than highways. And we need to make sure that our transportation funds are used to make streets that are safe and convenient for everyone, of all ages and abilities, whether walking, driving, riding a bicycle or taking public transportation.