Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety

Pedestrian safety and traffic calming have an ongoing, interconnected relationship. Concerns for pedestrian safety are often the impetus behind traffic calming, whether it is on a municipal road, in a private community, or on a corporate campus. In turn, the goal of traffic calming is to slow cars down and make cars safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

pedestrian safety, speed display sign
Pedestrians walk past SafePace 400 speed display sign
Each year, pedestrian fatalities comprise about 12% of traffic fatalities in the US.  A NHTSA report released in August 2012 reports 4,280 pedestrian fatalities in 2010 and an estimated 70,000 pedestrian injuries. While the number of pedestrian fatalities has decreased in the past decade, from 2009 to 2010 it has increased by 4%. Final pedestrian fatality data is not readily available for 2011 or 2012, however, a report estimating fatalities for the first quarter of 2012 shows higher overall fatality rates, which very likely translates to higher pedestrian fatalities as well. The 2010 pedestrian fatalities account for the largest percentage of total traffic fatalities in over ten years.

pedestrian fatalities, traffic fatalities
Percentage of traffic fatalities that took the lives of pedestrians
Across the US, a pedestrian is killed in a car accident every two hours and injured every eight minutes. Each of these deaths and injuries is preventable. 

NHTSA reports that of the 70,000 pedestrians injured in traffic crashes in 2010, approximately 23% were age 15 or younger., a nationwide child safety organization, documents that the highest percentage of fatalities among pedestrians age 14 and under was between 4 pm and 8 pm, the hours when children are out of school. 74% of these fatalities occurred at non-intersection locations.  In addition, the last five years have seen a 25% increase in injuries among 16-19 year olds. On average, 61 kids are injured by cars every day. These injuries are avoidable with the right planning and foresight. The responsibility to prevent these injuries is dual; cities need to implement solutions to slow cars in areas where children walk and schools and families need to educate children about how to navigate traffic safely.
A national initiative to encourage children to walk to school, spearheaded by the national Safe Routes to School program, has helped get more students walking or cycling to their schools. In addition to the physical benefits of consistent exercise, the increase may also be protecting children from car-related injuries. reports that policies that increase the number of pedestrians and cyclists actually improve their safety.  

Traffic calming interventions have been proven to reduce the risk of injury to pedestrians. In a CDC study entitled Reducing Childhood Pedestrian Injuries, the CDC lists traffic calming measures such as street narrowing or speed humps as a valuable tool to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. Flashing beacons have been found to slow cars around schools by 5-7 mph and are a good solution for school zones or any area with high pedestrian traffic. Driver feedback signs can be used to slow cars by alerting drivers while dynamic signs such as the SafePace 600 and SafePace 700 signs can issue different messages based on driver behavior.   The newly released SafePace 800 can also be programmed to show a full matrix graphic such as pedestrians crossing and can be used as a speed display sign as well. 

A key first step to initiating a solution is to identify the specific problem to address. There are many different safety issues that affect pedestrian and bicyclist safety and a solution that works for one issue may not be appropriate for another. Stay posted for a more in depth discussion about how to create a program to protect pedestrians on your streets.

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