Designing safer roads in busy urban areas can prevent pedestrians from getting struck and killed by motor vehicles. In 2016, pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 18 percent of all traffic-related fatalities in the United States.
Saving Pedestrians’ Lives
Pedestrian-friendly road design will save the lives of thousands of pedestrians each year. In 2016, motor vehicle drivers killed 5,987 pedestrians and 840 bicyclists in the U.S., the highest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1990. In 2015, close to 130,000 pedestrians were treated in hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal injuries after being struck by a car. States that are designing safer roads with sidewalks, crosswalks, and reduced speed limits in urban cities are decreasing pedestrian fatalities.
In Florida, pedestrian fatalities have decreased significantly since the state implemented a law that mandates roadway design to include safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists. Complete Streets laws, like those in Florida, have greatly reduced pedestrian injuries and deaths compared to other states without those laws. Traffic studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that Florida and other southern and western states in the Sun Belt have some of the most dangerous streets in the country for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Designing roads with pedestrian-friendly features is proven to save lives. Some road safety features are already in place in major cities like Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. Safety features include:
- Protected intersections – Raised medians or islands at intersections or between opposite lanes of traffic give pedestrians a safe place to wait while crossing the street.
- Curb extensions – Curb extensions slow down drivers’ turns and increase pedestrian visibility. They create shorter walking distances when crossing the street which protects children and elderly adults.
- Staggered crosswalks – Staggered crosswalks, Z-crossings, force pedestrians to face oncoming traffic before they step into the street.
- Protected left turns – Protected left turns only allow drivers to turn left on a green arrow. This prevents pedestrians from crossing the street at the same time.
- Pedestrian head starts – Traffic signals that give pedestrians an extra three to seven seconds before a light turns green keep pedestrians safer and more visible.
The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and many state officials across the country are recommending a comprehensive infrastructure package that promotes safer road design in all major cities. In cities where safer road design features have been implemented, thousands of pedestrian lives are getting saved each year.