In Delaware, from 2003 – 2012, 194 people were killed while walking. A new report, Dangerous by Design, Delaware 2014 ranks Delaware by major city and counties according to a Pedestrian Danger Index that assesses how safe pedestrians are while walking. In addition, the report presents data on pedestrian fatalities and injuries in every U.S. metro area. The report found that the majority of those deaths likely could have been prevented with better street design.
Adults 65 and over make up 14 percent of Delaware’s population and represent 16 percent of its pedestrian fatalities from 2003-2010. Older pedestrians died at a rate of nearly 3 per 100,000 residents in Delaware compared to 2 percent for those under age 65. The First State ranks 32nd nationally for fatality rate among pedestrians 65 and older.
“America’s state, federal, state and community leaders should focus on making our streets safer – which will benefit everyone, including thegrowing number of older Delawareans,” said Lucretia Young, AARP State Director.
The majority of pedestrian deaths occur on roadways that are dangerous by design —engineered and operated for speeding traffic with little to no provision for the safety of people walking, biking or using public transit. Sadly, older adults, children and minorities are the most at risk while walking, dying in disproportionate numbers.
The largest number of total traffic fatalities from 2003-2012 was in New Castle County at 565. 21 percent of those were pedestrian deaths,” continued Lucretia Young. She also noted that in Sussex County, where the older population is growing rapidly and walkability is of growing importance, There were 410 deaths with about 10 percent of them being pedestrians.
From 2003 – 2010 in Delaware, non-Hispanic whites had a fatality rate of 2.08 percent. For African Americans, the rate was 1.9 percent. Hispanic data was insufficient. It reports that in Dover 247 traffic fatalities occurred between 2003-2012.
Nationally, in 2012, pedestrians accounted for 14 percent of all traffic deaths, up six percent from 2011 and representing a five-year high.
Pedestrian safety is often perceived as a strictly local issue but, for decades, federal dollars have been invested in thousands of miles of state and local roads in the heart of communities. In fact, 68 percent of all pedestrian fatalities over the past decade occurred on federal-aid roads — roads that follow federal guidelines and are eligible to receive federal funds.
In recent years, scores of communities have begun to redesign roads as “complete streets” that function well for all kinds of travelers. They add sidewalks and bicycle lanes, reduce crossing distances and improve crosswalks to make walking safe and comfortable for all users. By making these changes, the report finds these deaths can be prevented.
Delaware has taken steps in the right direction. In 2009, by Executive Order, Governor Markell created a complete streets policy. The term Complete Street means a roadway that accommodates all travelers, particularly public transit users, bicyclists, pedestrians (including individuals of all ages and individuals with mobility, sensory, neurological, or hidden disabilities), and motorists, to enable all travelers to use the roadway safely and efficiently.
“We are allowing an epidemic of pedestrian fatalities, brought on by streets designed for speed and not safety, to take nearly 5,000 lives a year; a number that increased six percent between 2011 and 2012,” said Roger Millar, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition. “Not only is that number simply too high, but these deaths are easily prevented through policy, design, and practice. State and local transportation leaders need to prioritize the implementation of Complete Streets policies to improve safety and comfort for people walking.”
The federal government sets the tone for a national approach to safety and Congress can address this critical issue by passing the Safe Streets Act as it renews the transportation law. States are then ultimately responsible for protecting their residents and visitors and reducing the number of people who are killed or seriously injured while walking. State governments and agencies can take a number of actions to improve pedestrian safety, starting with adopting a strong Complete Streets policy and following a comprehensive action plan to ensure the streets are planned and designed for the safety and comfort of people walking.
Dangerous By Design is released by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America, in conjunction with groups including AARP and the American Society of Landscape Architects. The report shows the urgent need to make our roadways safer for pedestrians nationwide.
View the full report.