The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports that the number of traffic deaths has increased by 6 percent in the last five years. Even more alarmingly, the number of pedestrian fatalities has increased by 25 percent over the same period of time. Pedestrian fatalities now account for 15 percent of all traffic fatalities – up from 11 percent in 2011. The State of New York currently ranks 25th in pedestrian fatalities. New York City, as the largest city in the country and most pedestrian-friendly, unsurprisingly has the most pedestrian fatalities. New York City had 131 pedestrian fatalities in 2015, the second-highest city for pedestrian fatalities was Los Angeles which had only 85 in the same year.
The GHSA Report states that the increase in pedestrian fatalities is most likely due to more people choosing to walk or bike. Spurred by the health, environmental and economic benefits – walking and biking have become more popular in recent years. According to the Government Accountability Office, almost one million more people are choosing to walk or bike to work compared to 2005.
While the number of pedestrian fatalities may be increasing, the type of situations that cause these deaths have remain unchanged. A full 72 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred in travel lanes (where the person was actually in a lane where the vehicle was traveling.) A relatively smaller amount occurred in intersections (18 percent) and an even smaller amount occurred in, what was termed “non-travel lanes” (10 percent) which includes shoulders and driveways. A full 74 percent of these fatalities occurred in the dark when visibility for both pedestrians and drivers is the lowest.
The GHSA proposes three approaches to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities. First, the GHSA proposes increasing the physical separation between pedestrians and vehicles. This includes physical barriers such as sidewalks and traffic islands, as well as increasing crossing time for pedestrians and installing new traffic signals at intersections with higher fatality rates. Second, because most pedestrian fatalities occur at night, the GHSA proposes making pedestrians more visible to drivers. This includes better lighting on the streets and more reflective paint on crosswalks. Last, the GHSA proposes reducing speeds in high-density areas where pedestrians are most likely to be involved in an accident. This can include lowering the speed limit, installing speed bumps and increasing the number of traffic cameras that catch people “speeding.”