October is Pedestrian Safety Month, and government statistics show that pedestrian roadway deaths have been on the rise for years. Safety advocates say part of the problem is increasingly large trucks and SUVs that are especially dangerous to walkers, runners and bicyclists. Since 2011, pedestrian and cyclist deaths have increased by 64%, to an estimated 8,413 in 2022.
U.S. vehicle safety ratings currently only consider the safety of the people inside the vehicle. The National Association of City Transportation Officials is leading an effort asking government regulators to begin factoring the safety of those outside of vehicles into their 5-star safety ratings.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed new pedestrian crash avoidance tests, but they would be voluntary and not part of the agency’s 5-star rating system, said Billy Richling, a spokesperson at the National Association of City Transportation Officials, which is pushing to make the pedestrian safety testing mandatory.
“A vehicle could fail the pedestrian crash-worthiness test and still receive five stars,” he said.
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PEDESTRIAN SAFETY MONTH RESOURCES
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Pedestrian Safety Month page includes a resource guide, graphics and safe walking tips for youth.
FIND YOUR STATE: PEDESTRIAN FATALITIES BY STATE
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not yet have final numbers on traffic fatalities for 2022, but nationwide estimates can be found here. Meanwhile, the agency’s database of traffic crashes allows a user to search for state-specific data. This tab shows fatal pedestrian crashes by state from 1994 through 2020.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Administration also collects data on fatal crashes and has a report on preliminary pedestrian crash data by state for 2022. This group also has some useful infographics available for download at the bottom of the page.
Data collection varies a bit between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration, so numbers may not line up exactly.
VIEW ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
The National Association of City Transportation Officials is pushing to make pedestrian safety testing a mandatory component of the official government five-star safety ratings for new passenger vehicles. Find out if your city is a member of this organization.
Families for Safe Streets fights for policies that will help prevent pedestrian and cyclist deaths. The group also has a support network for families and friends of those killed by traffic violence. Find out if your city has a chapter.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center has created a web application called VIEW, which uses crowd-sourcing to create a database of vehicle blind zones. The app creates dramatic visualizations. For example, it shows that eight elementary school children could stand shoulder-to-shoulder in front of a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado without being visible to the driver.
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While changes to the five-star rating system require federal action, experts say truly solving the problem of pedestrian and cyclists deaths requires a multi-pronged approach with state and local officials playing a part as well. This is called a safe system approach that will have redundancies built in. For example, cars could be required to have sensors that detect pedestrians. At the same time, cities could lower speed limits and step up enforcement of existing traffic laws. And states could fund structural changes like crosswalk beacons and traffic medians that can help pedestrians cross streets safely.
—- Ask your local city or state transportation officials what they are doing about lowering speed limits; improving enforcement of existing traffic laws; and making structural changes to streets like protected bike lanes. Ask if the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are considered when improving or repaving streets. Do they have an overall plan for non-motorist safety improvements?
— If your city or state transportation department has someone whose job is to promote the transportation needs of non-motorists, ask them about the challenges they face. Do they need more money? Is there resistance to the idea of spending road money on non-motorist needs? What are the local groups that are trying to help?
— Ask how much money your local city and state transportation departments have budgeted for improvements that will benefit pedestrians and cyclists. How has this changed over the past decade?
— Find a local cycling group or safe-streets advocacy group and ask them about their work. What challenges do they face? Can they connect you with family or friends who have lost a loved one to traffic violence? Ask them who else you should be talking to.
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