Danger Zone: Report Points to Critical Need for Safer Walking in Southern States

carrie turnerSouthern cities and states are among our nation’s most dangerous places for walking. According to Dangerous by Design 2014, published by Smart Growth America, 9 of the top 10 most-dangerous large metro areas are located in Southern states. The report also names states with the highest risks for pedestrians, where 7 of the top 10 are located in the South. Not surprisingly, older adults, children, and people of color are disproportionately impacted by these hazards. In all, we lost more than 47,000 people to pedestrian fatalities in the ten years from 2003-2012, more people than died in natural disasters during that same time period. The report highlights the need to advocate for safe, healthy, active transportation options for children and their families, especially in the South.  

Dangerous by designDangerous by Design relies on the Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) to rank cities and states in terms of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. The PDI is based on the number of commuters walking to work and the past 5 years of data on pedestrian fatality and injury. The national average PDI for the period under study was 52.2, while the “most dangerous” metro area, Orlando, registered a PDI over 4 times higher, at 244.28. All of the southern states that made the top 10 most dangerous were also above average for their PDI, as was Tennessee (ranked at number 11).

The report sets forth a call to action to combat the hazardous walking conditions found in many of our communities. Proposed solutions include policy improvements, better funding, performance measures that include pedestrian indicators, and improved design. Above all, improving pedestrian safety requires multi-faceted collaboration amongst elected officials, planners, engineers, policy-makers, advocates, public health professionals, law enforcement, schools, children, families, and others.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is increasing efforts in the South to combat the heightened pedestrian dangers present in this region. State Advocacy Organizers in Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina have been working for three years to build networks, support award and obligation of funds, and advocate for better policy related to safe bicycling and walking. The National Partnership recently added a new Southern States Coordinator position to provide additional emphasis and support to Southern States. The National Partnership’s “Southern Team” will hold a series of Southern States Focus Groups this month to gather input from across the south on challenges, needs, and opportunities for collaboration and success. If you are interested in participating in or learning the results of our focus group conversations, please reach out to our Southern States Coordinator, Carrie Turner (carrie@saferoutespartnership.org).

These statistics, though sobering, can serve as greater inspiration to strengthen our networks and broaden our Southern emphasis to ensure that our roadways safely serve all users, of all ages and all abilities, at all times.

For more information about Dangerous by Design, you can review your state’s data, a national overview, and detailed actions steps on the Smart Growth America website.

Source: Dangerous by Design 2014. Report. Smart Growth America. May, 2014. 

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