Mind the Crosswalk: Pedestrian Accidents on the Rise


From 2003 to 2012, more than 47,000 pedestrians died on American roads and sidewalks, according to a new annual report. And with more people walking—for their health, to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles, or simply for fun—we all have a responsibility to keep the roads safe.

Dangerous By Design 2014, is a report that examines the pedestrian safety and risk of pedestrian accidents in a number of metropolitan areas in the country. While one might think cities like NYC, where pedestrian traffic is prominent, would be the least safe, the report indicates cities in the southeastern U.S., including Atlanta, are the most dangerous for injuries to people on foot.

Atlanta ranks in top ten of cities most dangerous for pedestrians

To compile the rankings, the National Complete Streets Coalition analyzed pedestrian accident fatalities over a nine-year period, from 2003 to 2012. The coalition compared these rates on a state-by-state and national basis with the number of people commuting by foot, coming up with a Pedestrian Danger Index, or PDI score.

Nationally, from 2003 to 2012, the Pedestrian Danger Index was 52.2 and the annual pedestrian fatality rate averaged 1.56 per 100,000 people.

Orlando, FL topped the list of most dangerous cities, with a PDI of 244.28 and a pedestrian fatality rate of 2.75 per 100,000. Orlando was followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Memphis, Birmingham, Houston, and Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, rounding out the top eight.

The Atlanta area had 839 pedestrian deaths from 2003 to 2012. This earned the area a PDI of 119.35 and a pedestrian fatality rate of 1.59 per 100,000 people.

Out of the ten most dangerous cities for pedestrians, Phoenix was the only one not located in the southeastern region of the U.S. Cities in the southeast, characterized by urban sprawl, were simply not designed for pedestrian safety, something that the Dangerous By Design report says needs changing.

Making Atlanta safer for pedestrians

The most dangerous roads for pedestrians, both in Atlanta and across the nation, are known as arterial roads. These roads are high-capacity and high-speed thoroughfares, designed to move the most traffic in the least amount of time. They are wide, fast, and flat.

Partially because of their locations, cutting through highly traveled areas used by commuters and residents, these roads are flanked by apartment complexes, shopping malls, parks, and other community features, making pedestrians relatively common.

Reducing accidents on these roads could be as simple as reducing speed limits. But creating and widening sidewalks, timing crossing signals, and creating highly visible crosswalks also could improve pedestrian safety.

Recently, the cities of Decatur and Atlanta proposed a project to improve access to MARTA rail lines by pedestrians in the area. Streets like M L King Jr. Drive, Lee Street/Peters Street, and Decatur Street/DeKalb Ave. would all be rebuilt in the project, as each connects neighborhoods to MARTA and each is dangerous for pedestrians.

According to a statement from Decatur, the project would include 11 miles of new sidewalks and trails, better lane configuration, new curbs, better lighting, and trees.

Projects like this one are costly, but needed in many communities. Until the time comes when all Atlanta-area streets are safe for pedestrians, drivers and walkers alike must be cautious while traveling and look out for each other at every turn.

If you are a pedestrian, take care to cross only at visible intersections and never walk on the road. When walking at night, wear reflective or bright clothing and stay under the street lights as you navigate your route.

If you are a motorist, slow down. Never assume a pedestrian sees you. Respect crosswalks and allow people to cross with the signals. It’s important to understand that whether or not pedestrians are following the rules of the road, they are extremely vulnerable and an accident could very likely end in their death.