How to React to the 2017 Government Highway Safety Report on Pedestrian Fatalities

What does the latest Government Highway Safety Association (GHSA) Report tell us about the walkability of our roads?  How does Florida fare versus other states?

Measurable efforts to improve safety for all community members on the roads have increased in the past several years. But, walking our roads is still dangerous.  In fact, fatalities have increased.

The GHSA projected nearly 6,000 pedestrian deaths by motor vehicles in the United States in 2017.  Pedestrians now account for about 16% of all motor vehicle deaths, up from 11% just a few years ago.  In fact, 2017 marked the second year of a 25 year high level of pedestrian deaths. Between 2007 and 2016, pedestrian deaths increased by 27% while other types of vehicular deaths decreased by 14%.  

Since 2009, the number has jumped from about 4,000 fatalities a year to about 6,000.

Figure 8   National Pedestrian Fatalities, 2014-2017. (GHSA Report 2017 p.18)

Table 9   Pedestrian Fatalities per State for First Six Months of 2017. (GHSA Report 2017 p.15)

  • Five states (CA, FL, TX, NY, AZ) each reported greater than 100 pedestrian deaths while 12 states and DC each had fewer than 10.  
  • Five states (CA, FL, TX, NY, AZ) accounted for more than 43% of all pedestrian deaths.  

What is Florida doing about this tragic increase?  

Florida uses a combination of:

  • Education
  • Enforcement
  • Engineering (Complete Streets etc.)
  • Emergency Response Countermeasures

The Orlando Sentinel stated that in 2015, there were 60 pedestrian deaths. In 2016 there were 75 people walking killed – and in 2017, that number jumped to 87.  

Although more money has been invested into engineering safer streets and adding crosswalks, educating the community through various programs and outreach, and encouraging more rigid enforcement of the laws, the safety of people walking the streets of Central Florida is still well below the national average.  

Christy Lofye, Orange County’s traffic-engineering manager, stated in an interview with Orlando Sentinel, that the county is spending $15 million on nearly 100 specific projects, ranging from signage to crossing lights. “We’ve been putting so much effort into pedestrian safety and we have a long way to go.”  She also admitted that she takes each pedestrian death very hard.

Who are the most vulnerable to being a victim of this type of motor vehicle tragedy?  

The GHSA report tells us that nationally, the elderly, children and non-whites are more vulnerable.  

What other factors could be contributing to the increase in deaths?  

National Public Radio (NPR) stated in February of 2018 that after speeding and failure to yield, distractions are the #3 cause of pedestrian fatalities, particularly by an electronic device such as a smart phone.   

Figure 11  Number of Smartphones in Active Use (in millions)  (GHSA Report, p. 36)

Figure 12  Annual Multimedia Messages (in billions). (GHSA Report, p. 37)

The GHSA report also suggests that an increase in cars on the road due to cheaper fuel and an increase in pedestrians due to a renewed focus on health and environmental issues are two possible explanations for this massive increase in pedestrian deaths over the last few years.  

What can you do to help?   

Be a voice for pedestrians and bicyclists in your community!  

Best Foot Forward (BFF) is a grassroots coalition that was formed in 2012 with a mission to make our roads safer for everyone.  It lays forth an ambitious pledge that starts with admitting that Florida roads were designed for speed and convenience, not safety for walking or biking.  The BFF coalition takes this responsibility of improving the walkability of our streets very seriously, is making progress each day and will continue to put their best foot forward in this important cause.  

“It’s going to take years and years and years to see the changes needed to reduce fatalities and injuries,” said Amanda Day, Executive Director of Bike/Walk Central Florida.  

It must be a concentrated, community effort. Do you know of a place that needs an updated crosswalk?  Or a sign that should be installed at a dangerous intersection? What about an event that could raise awareness for the safety of walkers and bikers?  

The Best Foot Forward team is always looking for events and community groups to speak with and share the driver yield law and pedestrian fatality statistics just like these. If you know of a community group where pedestrian safety information would be welcomed and beneficial, please reach out to Best Foot Forward on Facebook or call 407-636-5606.

Each person can make a difference by getting involved and spreading the word.

 

Click here to read the full report.

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