How Dangerous is Walking in Your Neighborhood?

Photo courtesy Transportation for America.

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) Walking around can be a harrowing experience – just ask anyone who's ever looked both ways, sent a prayer skyward and sprinted across a busy, crosswalk-free road. A new report by transportation advocacy group Transportation for America documents just how dangerous walking can be. Using a combination of census information and data from the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Highway Administration, the report finds that more than 47,00 pedestrians were killed in the past decade; nearly 700,000 were injured.  The fatality numbers, said the report's authors, are the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every month. "If that happened, you can be sure there'd be no end to Congressional hearings and investigations," said Transportation for America director James Corless.

Within the numbers are some sobering racial and ethnic disparities: Latino pedestrians are 62% more likely to be killed than whites, while African-Americans are 73% more likely to be killed. Senior citizens of all races are at risk, but again, racial minorities are much more likely to die.

The report points out that while motor vehicle travel has generally become safer over the past 10 years – around the country, car accident fatality rates have fallen – in 15 of the country's largest metro areas, pedestrian deaths have increased. The report's authors attribute the problem to roads designed with only cars in mind: the most dangerous streets by far are major arterials, where speeding is common and pedestrian amenities rare.

Fixing these problems is relatively cheap: the report points out that changes as simple as lowering speed limits and adding crosswalks significantly reduce risk. But ultimately they advocate for government on all levels to design streets with a variety of uses in mind – what's known as a "complete streets" approach.

The top four worst regions are in Florida, followed by Southern California and Las Vegas. In the San Francisco Bay Area, which ranks 41st of 52 metro areas, 685 people died in the past ten years. Wondering how bad things are in your area? The group's got an interactive map where you can plug in your address and see for yourself.

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