Most dangerous cities for pedestrians in America

Consumer Reports News: August 17, 2011 01:43 PM

Pedestrians account for about 12 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths each year, translating to over 4,000 deaths and 59,000 injuries in 2009. From 2000-2009 there were 47,700 deaths. Clearly, pedestrian safety is a major issue on our roads and a new report highlights those areas in America where walking near roadways brings added risks.

The report from Transportation for America, a non-profit coalition working on transportation reform, outlines the issues facing pedestrian safety and claims that this population is largely ignored from a budget and resource perspective. The report cites the 27-percent drop in motor vehicle deaths in 10 years, but only a 14 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities during the same period. In some areas, actually, the pedestrian number has increased. Most of these deaths are considered accidents on the part of the driver or pedestrian, but Transportation for America says the common thing that connects these deaths is that they occur on roads that are not conducive to walkers, bicyclists, or people in wheelchairs. This has caused a dilemma with health officials working to encourage walking and biking to combat obesity, while some of the streets to do that on are not safe in many areas.

From looking at the census figures combined with 10 years of fatality data, the organization was able to highlight communities where there is higher risk of death or injury to pedestrians. They say the risks are heightened due to states’ failures to invest in safety-focused infrastructure.

Here are the 10 worst metro areas for pedestrian deaths. Notably, most are in warmer climates where outdoor, street-side activity is possible year round, and the top four most dangerous metro areas are in Florida.

  1. Orlando/Kissimmee, Florida
  2. Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida
  3. Jacksonville, Florida
  4. Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Pompano, Florida
  5. Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, California
  6. Las Vegas/Paradise, Nevada
  7. Memphis, Tennessee
  8. Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, Arizona
  9. Houston/Sugar Land/Baytown, Texas
  10. Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, Texas

Transportation for America has a number of suggestions to deal with pedestrian safety problems, including federal funding for bike and walking facilities, making roads safer for people, and committing a fair share of the highway funds to improving the infrastructure.

Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a few pedestrian programs on their priority plan through 2013, including adding sound to hybrid and electric vehicles to alert pedestrians who may be walking nearby; looking at vehicle sensor systems that can detect pedestrians and reduce speed; and proposing regulations on the hood and bumper areas of vehicles to reduce injuries and fatalities to pedestrians who are hit.

Clearly, more work needs to be done to address pedestrian deaths, and you can do your part. If you’re driving, it’s important to be alert and aware, avoid distractions, follow speed limits, and yield to pedestrians. Pedestrians need also to be aware and assume that all drivers do not see them whenever they cross a street.

New York City aims to reduce pedestrian deaths
Report finds 1.2-million car crashes, 39,000 pedestrian crashes a year could be avoided with this technology

Liza Barth

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