Author: Pedestrian deaths 'silent epidemic' in U.S.
The rising number of pedestrian deaths is a national crisis. Increased attention to the issue can help save lives, says the author of a new book.
In “Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America,” journalist Angie Schmitt examines the 50 percent increase in U.S. pedestrian deaths over a ten-year period – resulting in more than 6,000 deaths – and explores possible solutions.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles 403 people have been killed in pedestrian crashes in the state so far this year.
Schmitt was a reporter for Streetsblog USA. She discussed with them the reasons “why the issue has been sort of invisible.”
“There are about 10 times as many pedestrian deaths a year as cyclists,” she said. “But they don’t have the same kind of resources and support. I think that’s because a lot of people who walk in a lot of parts of the U.S. are poor, and marginalized in other ways as well — race, disability status, age, immigration status, etc. Another realization I had after years of reporting is that people who lose loved ones to traffic deaths don’t get their stories told.”
An advocate for change
Schmitt also calls for increased advocacy for pedestrian safety. She wants to see changes in policy to help saves the lives of people who were simply out walking.
“One of the things pedestrians really need is good lighting, is streetlights that function and are in the right places,” she said. “Because about three quarters of pedestrians deaths occur at night.”
Schmitt said pedestrian islands, retimed “Walk” signals and curb ramps could also help improve safety for pedestrians.
She argues that a big reason pedestrian death have risen is because pedestrian safety has largely been overlooked by communities.
“We haven’t prioritized safety in our planning, I don’t think,” she said. “The money and the effort go into solving problems like congestion, which is truly a minor problem compared to traffic deaths and injuries. Even in cities, safety hasn’t been the big focus I think.”
Improvements in infrastructure can help save lives
Schmitt now runs 3MPH, a planning and consulting firm focused on helping communities make changes to improve pedestrian safety. She is calling for more attention to the issue. She says even a little investment could make a big difference.
When it comes to dangers to pedestrians, “this safety stuff would be relatively cheap to fix,” she said. “So in a way I think it’s actually sort of a radical idea, what I’m trying to do, even though it probably sounds boring, because it’s about lots of small little fixes.”
In Florida, the state Department of Transportation has launched a campaign called “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow” to address pedestrian safety. The campaign uses advertising, events and education to convey tips on reducing pedestrian fatalities.
The Law Offices of Brent C. Miller, P.A. has helped injured pedestrians – and the families of pedestrians killed in accidents – hold negligent drivers accountable and recover financial compensation. We understand the complexity of pedestrian accidents in Florida. We will investigate to gather evidence that helps us a build a strong case.
If you were injured in a pedestrian accident, or a loved one was killed, contact us to schedule a free consultation at one of our four offices in central Florida.