Authorities in Millbrook recently took the heartbreaking call regarding a 2-year-old pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle. The child was transported to the hospital and died.
The case is just one of thousands of pedestrian deaths that occur every year. The latest Dangerous by Design 2014 report calls the problem “epidemic,” focusing particular attention on the South, where the danger is not only highest, but the risks are increasing.
Among the top 10 most dangerous metropolitan areas in the country for pedestrians, the Birmingham-Hoover region ranked No. 6 on the list. In fact, Montgomery pedestrian accident lawyers have learned nine of the top 10 on that list were cities in the South, including four metro areas in Florida, as well as one each in Tennessee, Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.
Researchers not only examined the number of pedestrian deaths, but compared those figures to the usual number of pedestrians in a given place. So for example, while the Birmingham-Hoover area tabulated 148 pedestrian deaths between 2003 and 2012, it received a Pedestrian Danger Index rating of 125.60. That meant it ranked higher on the list than Houston, where there were 1,034 pedestrian deaths in that same period. Houston’s PDI was 119.4.
The national average for PDI, meanwhile, was 52.2.
What is it about the South that makes it such a dangerous place to walk? For one thing, people are simply more likely to walk on a regular basis than they are up North, as the weather tends to be more conducive year-round to alternate modes of travel.
Beyond that, however, is the way our cities have grown. In the post-war era, we saw rapid spread of suburban sprawl. Getting from one place to another on foot simply wasn’t practical, by-and-large. So traffic engineers tailored roads primarily around the needs of motor vehicles. That greater reliance on cars has meant meant wider streets. Higher speeds. Fewer crosswalks and stop signs. Now, those who dare to walk along these arterial thoroughfares are risking serious injury.
In total during the study period, more than 47,000 pedestrians were killed nationwide. Both the base number of pedestrians killed and the percentage of overall traffic fatalities they represent have grown steadily since 2009, the report notes. In fact, while overall traffic deaths decline, pedestrian fatalities have increased.
Part of this has to do with technology and advocacy. People involved in motor vehicle crashes can be shielded from harm with advances in technology such as airbags and seat belts and tough penalties for drunk driving offenders. There has also been a greater push for improvements to motor vehicle driver and passenger safety.
The same can’t be said for pedestrians, who often can’t be protected by increasing technology. We can’t put people in bubbles as they walk down the street. What we can do, however, is begin designing and retrofitting roads that cater to the needs of those who walk. That means lowering speed limits. It means installing sidewalks and more crosswalks. It means setting up intersections in ways that maximize safety for pedestrians.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
A national epidemic of pedestrian deaths, May 2014, Smart Growth America
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