Depending on how you read the data, Baltimore pedestrians either have a lot to celebrate or a fair amount of caution yet to exercise when traversing the city’s crosswalks. According to Transportation for America, a pedestrian and bicycle safety group, more than 76,000 Americans have died over the past 15 years just crossing the street in their own communities.
My office provides legal services to individuals injured in pedestrian accidents caused by negligent passenger car drivers or as a result of a commercial trucking accident. As Maryland injury attorneys, we understand the pain and suffering that can follow a pedestrian-automobile accident, as well as the associated medical costs for treatment and rehabilitation.
The published report on pedestrian injuries and fatalities across the country ranked a number of metropolitan areas in terms of frequency of accidents involving persons on foot. In discussing the issue of pedestrian injuries, the authors of the study sum up the total number of deaths as being the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing with a full passenger load once every month or so. It’s shocking to say the least.
Calling out the total number of deaths in this decade, Transportation for America points out that nearly 4,000 children under 16 years have been killed so far in the 2000s. Based on their figures, the authors observed that in children, elderly and infirm individuals, and ethnic minorities are over-represented in the totals.
The study is quick to address the fact that many pedestrian deaths are typically termed “accidents,” which indicates an error either on the part of the vehicle operator or the person on foot. However, the authors make a strong point that quite a large percentage of these so-called accidents occurred along roadways that were “dangerous by design.” In other words, the blame should perhaps be shifted to the poor roadway and sidewalk design, rather than to the users of those streets and walkways.
It has become more and more prevalent that communities are retrofitting poorly designed roadways into more complete streets. This is being done through the addition of sidewalks and bicycle lanes, reduction of crossing distances and the installation of trees and crosswalks to make walking and biking safer and more inviting.
So how did Baltimore do in this study? With 2.9 percent of all workers in the city walking to their places of employment, Baltimore was given a 61.9 on the Transportation for America’s “Pedestrian Danger Index.” This correlates to the city’s average annual pedestrian death rate of 1.82 pedestrian fatalities for every 100,000 Baltimore residents.
That may not sound so good, but understand that Florida had four separate metropolitan areas in the top spots with danger index ratings of between 157 and 221. Still there is much that can be done, at least according to the Transportation for America. Maryland itself ranks 49th in spending versus pedestrian deaths, with pedestrians making up nearly 20 percent of all traffic deaths in the state, yet only 0.6 percent of federal funding has gone to pedestrian and bicycle traffic safety projects in recent years.
Dangerous By Design, Transportation for America