Pedestrian traffic safety measures have been “a total failure,” according to an advocacy group’s new report that found U.S. pedestrian fatalities jumped 45% over the last decade as planners prioritized vehicle speed and traffic flow over the lives of those on foot.
The report “Dangerous by Design 2021,” compiled by the urban planning nonprofit Smart Growth America, found that from 2010 to 2019, nearly every state in the U.S. grew more dangerous for pedestrians than the year prior, even though overall traffic fatalities trended downward. It also found alarming disparities in deaths based on the victims’ location, age, and race.
“Our current approach to addressing the rising number of people struck and killed while walking has been a total failure,” says the report released on Wednesday. It urges transportation planners to prioritize the safety of people not behind the wheel.
Black people were found to have been struck and killed by drivers at an 82% higher rate than white non-Hispanic people from 2010 to 2019. The fatality rate in the lowest-income neighborhoods was nearly twice that of middle-income neighborhoods.
“Low-income communities are significantly less likely to have sidewalks, marked crosswalks, and street design to support safer, slower speeds,” the report states. “It is likely that many people walking in these lower-income census tracts are also lower-income themselves.” The report adds that people in lower-income communities are less likely to have cars.
“We urgently need to change the way we design and build roads to prioritize safety, not speed, as we currently do,” Beth Osborne, transportation director for Smart Growth America, said in a statement. “The obsession with keeping traffic moving and avoiding a delay at all costs in hopes of saving drivers mere seconds creates the very dangers highlighted in this report.”
According to the report, Florida was the most deadly state for pedestrians, and seven of the nation’s ten most dangerous metropolitan areas were in the Sunshine State.
Florida’s Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area ranked first in a calculation considering deaths, population, and the number of people walking to work. The Orlando area has topped the planning group’s most-dangerous chart in three of four previous editions of the report that stretch back to 2009. Like Florida, the nine other states in the Top 10 are the southern continental U.S. Alabama, and New Mexico are second and third.