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News Release: New National Report Ranks South Carolina as a Dangerous State for Pedestrians

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Columbia, South Carolina – South Carolina is among the most dangerous states in the nation for pedestrians, ranking 4th nationally with a Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) of  110.39 according to a new report released by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America. Between 2003 and 2012, 1,020 people were killed while walking in South Carolina, representing 10.7% of the 9,546 traffic-related fatalities in the state during this period.

For the years 2003 to 2010, these fatalities include 56 children under 16 and 110 adults aged 65 or older.  Of this number, 58.8% were killed on arterial roads, which are eligible to receive federal funding for construction or improvement, with federal design guidance or oversight. Arterials are often designed and operated to maximize the speed of automotive traffic and not for pedestrian safety and comfort, despite running through places where people need and want to walk.

“When our roads were built they were designed to move cars and not to accommodate pedestrians,” said Teresa Arnold, AARP South Carolina state director.  “We can do better as a state when it comes to reducing pedestrian related fatalities that occur on our roads and highways as these deaths can be preventable through policy, design, and practice. Our local communities, states and the federal government each play an important role in making our streets safer.”

In South Carolina, adults 65 or older make up 12.9% of the state’s population and represent 12.4% of its pedestrian fatalities from 2003–2010. Older pedestrians died at a rate of 2.4 per 100,000 residents in South Carolina, compared to 2.54 per 100,000 for residents under age 65, ranking 33rd nationally for fatality rate among pedestrians 65 and older.

In addition, the report presents data on pedestrian fatalities and injuries in every U.S. metro area, as well as state and county assessments  and an online, interactive map showing the locations where pedestrian fatalities have occurred. South Carolina data maybe found here.

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.

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,” said Arnold.

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. State governments and agencies also 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.

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