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We Need To Plan For Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian Accident Attorneys Of Blackwell Law FirmI’ve written several articles about car accidents involving pedestrians. Over the years, I’ve also investigated and represented many clients as their pedestrian accident attorney. Pedestrian cases are very difficult in Alabama due to some of our specific laws. They are also difficult due to perceptions that favor car drivers. Because of these difficulties, pedestrian accident cases require a skilled approach for success. You can read some of my prior articles on the topic on this blog.

If you read any of my posts, you know I talk a lot about traffic and accident studies. A recent study by Smart Growth America reveals a continued trend in the wrong direction — Accidents and deaths involving pedestrians struck by cars continue to increase.

You can read the Smart Growth America study HERE. I’ll discuss a couple observations from the study in this post. First, I wanted to quote one of the introductory paragraphs from the study. It’s very interesting:

Our nation’s streets are dangerous by design, designed primarily to move cars quickly at the expense of keeping everyone safe. The result in 2020 was a significant increase in all traffic fatalities, even with less driving overall due to the pandemic.

In many places, this quote is 100% true. So many of our roads, even in suburban and urban areas, were designed with little thought to pedestrian or cyclist traffic. Here are my observations from this recent accident study:

The Rate Of Car Accidents Involving Pedestrians Is Highest Across Southern States Like Alabama

The accident data shows that pedestrian injuries continue to increase on a yearly basis. This was true even during the pandemic when fewer cars were on our roads and highways. The data also clearly reveals higher accident rates across southern states. Here’s a look at the top 11 states by rate of pedestrian injury and death with southeastern / southwestern ones in bold:

  1. New Mexico
  2. Florida
  3. South Carolina
  4. Arizona
  5. Delaware
  6. Louisiana
  7. Mississippi
  8. Nevada
  9. Georgia
  10. California
  11. Alabama

When you see these states on the map, the ranking becomes even more obvious. The worst states span the southern part of the country.

Why do southern states have a higher rate of pedestrian injuries and deaths? Many of these states have large, rural areas. They lack the compact, walking cities you see in the northeast. They were designed for fast car travel with less thought to walkability. These states often have fewer stretches of roadway with areas requiring drivers to slow or stop. Unlike congested areas in the northeast, drivers are also not conditioned to watch closely for people walking around the roadway.

It’s not just road design. In states like Alabama, the laws are written in a manner more protective of drivers. In some states like Alabama, a pedestrian is negligent if he / she walks outside an available crosswalk.

Roads And Highways Are Often Designed Without Planning For Cyclist Or Pedestrian Safety

Roadway design controls how drivers behave. Local police can give speeding tickets all day in a specific area. Often, that enforcement effort only provides a short-term change. Design is the bigger and better way to slow traffic in an area.

Think about local projects. In Huntsville, we have several neighborhoods with long, straight streets that allowed speeding motorists. In recent years, the city installed humps in the roadway. That one design element significantly slowed speeding in many neighborhoods and probably saved lives. That one design element impacted long-term driver behavior in a far greater manner than regular police activity handing out speeding tickets.

I could talk a lot about roadway design. I’ve discussed the issue numerous times in other posts. When it comes to pedestrians and cyclists, roadway design can slow cars at critical areas, improve driver vision and provide guidance to drivers. In Huntsville, our city has created a plan that improves our roads for cyclists and pedestrians as well as cars. In many ways, Huntsville’s planning is far beyond the planning of most other cities.

Pedestrian Accident Rates Are Worse In Low Income Areas Without Access To Parks, Walkways And Other Infrastructure

The research paper really notes how some locations are more dangerous. Some areas without access to safe walkways, parks or protective road designs, have much higher rates of accidents and deaths.

Locally, think about University Drive. In one stretch of University Drive, you have a housing project with little or no access to resident needs. The closest convenience stores require residents to cross multiple lanes of University Boulevard that are poorly lit in that area, while cars zip by at high speeds. No good crosswalks or walkways. No real speed or traffic limitations. Just a wide, dangerous crossing where numerous pedestrians have been struck over the years.

A quick Google search reveals many serious pedestrian accidents on University Drive. Local channel WHNT reported one such serious injury at University and Boxwood Drive in just the last couple months. As you read down the page, you see accident after accident in this area..

Despite so many pedestrian accidents on University Drive, they continue to occur. The key to reducing these serious accidents and injuries is design. Sometimes, even small design changes can result in big decreases in the number of accidents. Design is a key to safety everywhere.

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From our office in Huntsville, the lawyers at Blackwell Law Firm represent people with serious personal injury cases statewide. If you have questions about accident and injury law, let us know. We are happy to help. Our consultations are always free and confidential.

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