Cars are becoming notably safer. With advanced vehicle safety features, roadway infrastructure that favors vehicular traffic, and laws cracking down on cellphone use behind the wheel, traffic fatalities are steadily beginning to decline. For pedestrians, however, the opposite is happening.
According to federal statistics, nearly 50,000 pedestrians have been killed on American roads over the past decade. This marks a 35 percent increase in pedestrian deaths, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. More than 6,000 of those deaths occurred in 2018 alone.
Roadways not designed for pedestrian safety
In a PBS News Hour segment, safety advocate and journalist Arren Kimbel-Sannit discusses how pedestrians in residential areas are no longer as safe as they used to be. Due to the use of navigation apps — which direct drivers to their destination through the fastest possible route — more drivers are traveling through residential neighborhoods that aren't designed to handle the increased traffic volume.
Sannit references one particular Las Angeles neighborhood, Riverside Drive, where a teenager was struck and killed in 2017. Like many roadways found in West Coast cities, Riverside Drive wasn't designed for walking. A local safety advocate even recounts walking the street for about 10 minutes without seeing a single crosswalk.
According to Sannit, many West Coast cities were constructed for vehicular traffic, as opposed to East Coast cities.
"Unlike older, denser East Coast cities that were built before automobiles ruled the roads, Sunbelt cities like Phoenix and L.A. were built with cars as the dominant mode of transportation," he said.
Pedestrians are often forced to share dangerous roadways with fast-moving cars and trucks. Many of these roads are in low-income neighborhoods without adequate crosswalks, pedestrian warning signs, or even sidewalk accessibility ramps.
Sannit also cites a 36 percent decline in pedestrian fatalities in the European Union from 2007-2016. This decline is primarily due to redesigns in vehicles and roadway infrastructure.
Addressing Seattle pedestrian safety
In 2018, Seattle had 14 traffic fatalities, down from 19 in 2017. More than half of those deaths involved pedestrians, according to an article in The Seattle Times. In order to address pedestrian safety concerns, city officials have adopted a Vision Zero goal of achieving zero fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. They plan to roll this initiative out through lower speed limits and redesigned roadway infrastructure.
Jim Curtin, the manager of Seattle's Vision Zero program, explains.
“It’s up to us in the city to design streets so that when someone inevitably makes a mistake, the consequences aren’t death,” he said.
Despite the city's roadway infrastructure, driver error is the leading cause of pedestrian deaths. Drivers who are distracted by cellphones, speeding through residential neighborhoods, or driving impaired by alcohol or drugs puts pedestrian lives at risk each day across Seattle.
During this time of year, the days in Seattle are shorter than ever. That means many pedestrians will likely be walking in the dark. If you were struck and injured by a careless or reckless driver, the attorneys at Nelson Langer Engle, PLLC can help you pursue a strong legal claim. We can help you receive compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering. To schedule your free consultation with our legal team, contact us online today.