Car safety is down but pedestrian safety is up, significantly. A new survey shows that slower speeds on major arterial roads could go a long way toward reducing the nationwide scourge of rising pedestrian deaths.
Cars are safer than ever for passengers thanks to new assisted-driving technologies including ABS, traction control, lane-keep, and blind spot monitor, but people outside vehicles are increasingly being hit and killed.
The biggest danger zone has proven to be fast-moving roads alongside busy retail and service areas with lots of foot traffic.
In urban areas, such arterial roadways make up about 15% of all roads but account for 67% of pedestrian deaths, according to a report from StreetLight Data, which tracks mobility trends using anonymized cellphone data and other sources.
StreetLight Data measured average speeds on major thoroughfares with heavy pedestrian activity in the 30 most populous U.S. cities. The objective was to understand how fast vehicles are actually going and the impact they have on pedestrian safety, creating what it calls a “Safe Speed Index.”
According to the results, it turns out that New York City, where 84.1% of major pedestrian roadways have average speeds under 25 mph, ranked first (meaning it is most safe).
Washington, D.C., follows at 70.4%, then San Francisco (66.1%), Boston (61.3%) and Chicago (60.6%). In the remaining 25 cities, only 26% of arterial roads have average speeds under 25 mph, while 33% are in the “unsafe zone,” with average speeds above 35 mph.
In contrast, vehicle-centric Southern cities, including Fort Worth, Jacksonville, and Las Vegas, have the most dangerous speeds. Phoenix ranks last among the top 30 cities, with 65% of pedestrian-heavy major roadways averaging vehicle speeds above 35 mph, making them especially dangerous.
Over 7,508 pedestrians were struck and killed by cars in the United States in 2022 — the most in 41 years — according to a separate report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Pedestrian deaths have jumped 77% since 2010, compared to 25% for all other traffic-related deaths, the report found.
The most dangerous states turned out to beNew Mexico (4.40) and Arizona (4.17) with Florida (3.70) sitting in the worst spot and among the country’s highest rates of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2022, according to the GHSA report.
How’s this for a statistic?! Every day, 20 people go for a walk and never make it home. The figures show that pedestrians are twice as likely to be killed in a collision when a car is traveling at 30 mph compared to 20 mph, and over five times more likely when the car is cruising at 40 mph, according to data from the AAA Foundation. Time of day matters too; most pedestrian deaths occur at night. So if you’re going for a walk, try to go during the daytime, and be aware of your surroundings, especially when crossing a road. “The saddest part is that these crashes are preventable,” says GHSA CEO Jonathan Adkins. “We know what works: better-designed infrastructure, lower speeds, addressing risky driving behaviors that pose a danger to people walking.” One remedy might be a new rule by the Biden administration that would set higher performance standards for automatic emergency braking and pedestrian-detection technologies, measures that would definitely reduce pedestrian deaths.