Pedestrian accident fatalities occur primarily in urban areas, according to historical data.
Vehicle factors also are important. In pedestrian accidents, the most serious physical trauma responsible for disabling injuries and death comes from pedestrians impacting vehicle bumpers, hoods, or the windshield areas of automobiles. In addition to traffic solutions innovations such as warning devices and medians, engineers are working to make vehicle exteriors safer and less lethal in an effort to decrease the dangers posed to pedestrians.
According to the most recent statistics, 73 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2012 occurred in urban areas, up from 59 percent in 1975. Fifty-eight percent of pedestrian deaths in 2012 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways. In the year 2012, 4,743 pedestrian fatalities were recorded by the CDC. Of that total, 3,483 (nearly 73 percent) occurred in urban areas within city limits. Each year before that, the proportions have remained generally consistent, with a notable majority of pedestrian fatalities occurring in or close to populated cities.
Experts say the higher density of automobile traffic, coupled with the feasibility of pedestrian travel within urban areas and compounded by growing distractions (smartphone use) among both pedestrians and drivers, has sustained the high proportion of deaths in urban areas.
Additional Pedestrian Accident Statistics
By comparison, the largest proportion of pedestrian fatalities in rural areas occurs on roads with a speed limit of 55mph or greater. This may be attributed to deaths occurring on interstates and state highways, areas designated for high-speed vehicle travel and roads lacking sidewalks, not intended for pedestrian travel. Many states post signs banning pedestrians and bicyclists from interstate roadways.
Throughout the past several years, Florida has ranked consistently as one of the top states in the US with the most annual pedestrian fatalities. Florida’s largest cities – Tampa, Orlando, Miami, and Jacksonville – have the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the US. Teens between the ages of 15 and 19 are the most at-risk group for pedestrian accidents. Youth living in urban areas face an elevated, relatively proportionate risk of fatal pedestrian accidents on city streets.
Solutions for Increasing Pedestrian Safety
Engineering measures that separate vehicles and pedestrians such as sidewalks, refuge islands, overpasses and underpasses, and barriers can reduce the problem. Increased illumination and improved signal timing at intersections can also be effective. Since traffic speeds affect the risk and severity of pedestrian crashes, reducing speeds can lower pedestrian deaths.
There are several types of medians, also known as center islands, refuge islands, pedestrian islands, or median slow points and if designed and applied appropriately, they have been proven to help improve pedestrian safety in the following ways:
Raised medians should be considered in curbed sections of multi-lane roadways in urban and suburban areas, particularly in areas where there are mixtures of significant pedestrian and vehicle traffic (more than 12,000 Average Daily Traffic (ADT)) and intermediate or high travel speeds. Adding medians while increasing safe crossing awareness can help reverse the growing trend of pedestrian accidents and curb the issue of high pedestrian fatalities in urban areas.