It is human nature that if we consider it at all, we tend to think only about ourselves when it comes to highway safety, primarily the chances of us or our loved ones being killed or seriously injured in a car crash. But pedestrians represent about one in six of all people killed on America’s roads and we are all pedestrians at times.
In the USA, the Pedestrian Situation is Particularly Bad
On average, 16 pedestrians are killed every single day on America’s roads — at least six thousand two hundred and twenty seven in 2018 alone (preliminary figures). And the number of pedestrians injured is dramatically higher.
Even more shocking is the fact that pedestrian fatalities have increased by an astonishing 35 percent since 2009.
In a new report from the Governors’ Highway Safety Association [GHSA] on this subject (and linked below), they write:
‘Achieving robust and sustained progress toward reducing – and someday eliminating — pedestrian fatalities and injuries requires a comprehensive approach to pedestrian safety that combines:
- Education; and
- Emergency medical response.
‘Programs should incorporate the latest advances in technology and best practices and must be tailored to the needs of state and local communities.’ [End of excerpt]
Quite rightly, the aspects listed above are four of the so-called “Five E’s” of road safety (with the important one that is not listed being “Evaluation”). This does, however, raise a critical question which hinges around the fact that other developed nations with equally-busy roads and equal or greater population and traffic densities have for decades been achieving dramatically lower rates of pedestrian deaths. So just one of our questions to the GHSA et al, on this critical subject, is: What research studies on more effective crosswalk design from other countries are you using in your pursuit of the crucial best practices?
using best practices from more successful countries is essential & has a lot to offer
The next three photographs show just one type of the dramatically safer crosswalk facilities that may be found in Europe yet which are not used in America. There are important details in the captions.
so what are some of the pedestrian safety failings in the USa?
One reason for posting the above three images is to repeat our serious point that if America and the individual states want to increase pedestrian safety. as is so urgently needed, then not only are more mid-block crosswalks essential but all crosswalks need to have more effective, safer designs and stronger rules than those currently in use in the USA.
The following photographs all illustrate common safety failings at crosswalks in the USA.
WHAT PROGRESS IS THE USA MAKING?
So is there any adequate improvement in pedestrian crosswalk facilities in the USA? Well no doubt some of the states are working hard to make things better, though we still urge them to look at the exceptionally targeted variety of crosswalks in Britain, where all eventualities have been addressed — including the physical prevention of jay walking in higher-risk areas. But Britain is by no means alone in having good crosswalks. Amongst other places, Canada has some great designs, too. And just over the border from there, in Western New York, the village of Williamsville appears to be using a Canadian approach for a new, mid-block crosswalk, and it’s good, although the fact that pedestrians have to wait 90 seconds for the lights to change is very disappointing and has recently been seen (in late March 2019) to trigger pedestrians to simply cross without waiting for the lights.
From Bloomberg on the subject of pedestrian safety (March 22, 2019):
What’s Killing U.S. Pedestrians? Streets That Weren’t Designed for Them
the biggest issue
Nobody is saying that pedestrians are never wrong and never do stupid things; of course they do. But the difference is that pedestrians going dangerously into the path of a vehicle very rarely hurt or kill anyone else. Drivers however, by definition, are in charge of something that can easily kill and they must therefore bear more responsibility. Driving requires a duty of care.
For too long, drivers in America have somehow been deemed to have priority over other road users. It’s not many years, for example, since New York City engineers disconnected all of the “push to walk” buttons at crosswalks so that rush hour traffic could flow with less interruption. Seemingly very little thought was paid to the inconvenience faced by the pedestrians or the many who undoubtedly were hurt or killed when frustration pushed them into crossing at risky moments. (To be fair to New York, though, it is now one of the American cities that are pursuing a Target Zero program — a good way forward.)
None-the-less, from almost 20 years of professional observation and involvement with US road safety, the writer of this article has long been of the opinion that America’s serious failings in this field stem from inappropriate attitudes. This is not just among drivers, who in fairness have never had either adequate or even accurate driver education or training. But bearing in mind these inadequacies, those same drivers include every person who has gone on to work in traffic safety at all levels, including government, and in the absence of a professional hierarchy in the field of safe driving best-practices, it is therefore heartbreakingly obvious that the same old inadequacies and inaccuracies keep on getting regurgitated.
Just as with the GHSA on this occasion, people seem to be very good at discussing the need for applying best practises but then looking inwards instead of outwards for the best solutions. The only significant exception to this that I have seen so far is indeed the Target Zero program which originated in Sweden, and that is an excellent starting point, but even it is not the be-all-and-end-all. Several countries have excelled in road safety for decades — Sweden and Britain being the most consistent leaders, but others are up there too. Please look to them all!
protecting corporate fleets from the REPERCUSIONS of a driver killing or injuring a pedestrian
For corporate fleets there is an important second issue. Apart from the human grief and suffering that hitting a pedestrian or cyclist can cause, there are the serious considerations of financial cost and damaged reputation.
A third issue is eco-friendliness and reducing the costs of maintenance and fuel. You can be assured that we were inherently teaching these aspects long before they ever became buzz-words or the right thing to do, and we always will.
At Advanced Drivers of North America, we are unique in the USA in offering global best practices, together with a research-based approach for the very highest standards of safe driver training. And on the topic of this article, we can also assure you of our unmatched ability to train your staff to provide maximum safety to pedestrians and the other categories of vulnerable road users [VRU]. Contact us for details of our courses.
source of figures
Report from the GHSA:
Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2018 Preliminary Data
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