548. Why Is the U.S. So Good at Killing Pedestrians?
Pedestrian deaths in the US have been increasing, with the rate per mile driven being the highest in over 40 years. The problem lies in the design of streets that prioritize car movement and high speeds. Transportation Alternatives advocates for rebalancing street space to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders. Reasons for the rise in pedestrian deaths include larger and more dangerous vehicles, increased driving and walking, distracted driving, and people moving to less safe regions. Distracted driving, especially due to cell phone use, is a major factor contributing to roadway deaths. Improving pedestrian safety requires strategic changes to high-crash areas, the use of speed cameras, and narrowing roadways with added pedestrian infrastructure. Future improvements may include creating local gathering places and making auto travel safer through effort, coordination, cooperation, regulation, training, and technology.
Pedestrian deaths in the US are on the rise
The rate of pedestrian deaths per mile driven in the US is the highest it has been in over 40 years.
Street design prioritizes cars over pedestrians
The design of streets in the US prioritizes car movement and high speeds, leading to an imbalance in space allocation.
Distracted driving is a major cause of pedestrian deaths
Distracted driving, especially due to cell phone use, has been rapidly increasing and is a significant factor contributing to roadway deaths.
Improving pedestrian safety requires strategic changes
To improve pedestrian safety, strategic changes need to be made to high-crash areas, such as implementing speed cameras and narrowing roadways with added pedestrian infrastructure.
Future improvements can go beyond reducing speeds
Future improvements in pedestrian safety should focus on creating local gathering places and making auto travel safer through various efforts and technologies.
- Pedestrian Deaths in the US
- Street Design and Infrastructure
- Factors Contributing to Pedestrian Deaths
- Distracted Driving and Technology
- Other Factors Affecting Pedestrian Safety
- Improving Pedestrian Safety
- Future Improvements and Conclusion
Pedestrian Deaths in the US
00:04 - 08:09
- Pedestrian deaths in the US have been increasing, with the rate per mile driven being the highest in over 40 years.
- The US has a higher pedestrian death rate compared to other high-income countries.
- Most crashes occur on arterial streets with multiple lanes and numerous driveways.
- In New York City, a small percentage of streets account for more than half of all pedestrian deaths.
- Dangerous intersections are prevalent near Midtown Manhattan recording studio, with wide streets designed for cars rather than pedestrians.
- Low pedestrian density areas are prioritized for cars at the expense of heavily populated pedestrian areas.
Street Design and Infrastructure
07:41 - 15:38
- The problem lies in the design of streets that prioritize car movement and high speeds.
- Transportation Alternatives advocates for rebalancing street space to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders.
- 76% of New York City's street space is dedicated to vehicles, while less than 1% is dedicated to bus and bike lanes combined.
- Low pedestrian density areas are being designed for cars, while heavily populated areas lack pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.
- There is a significant imbalance in space allocation, with 76% dedicated to cars despite the majority of New Yorkers not owning a car.
- 10th Avenue has been identified as a dangerous street, with multiple pedestrian and cyclist deaths and injuries.
Factors Contributing to Pedestrian Deaths
15:09 - 22:15
- Reasons for the rise in pedestrian deaths include larger and more dangerous vehicles, increased driving and walking, distracted driving, and people moving to less safe regions.
- The 85th percentile rule allows speed limits to be set based on the speed at which most drivers are traveling, potentially leading to higher speeds and unsafe conditions.
- Federal traffic guidelines limit municipalities' ability to experiment with safer street designs.
- Speeding, alcohol and intoxication, fatigue, and distraction are the main factors contributing to fatalities on the road.
- Distraction while driving has been increasing rapidly and is a major reason for the rise in roadway deaths.
Distracted Driving and Technology
21:46 - 29:14
- David Strayer's research shows that using voice assistants while driving can be highly distracting and time-consuming.
- Inattentional blindness is a phenomenon where drivers fail to see objects right in front of them due to multitasking or distraction.
- Using a cell phone while driving doubles the rate of inattentional blindness.
- Multitasking compromises driving because it takes away brain power from the task at hand.
- Cell phone use while driving causes inattentional blindness, similar to the gorilla experiment.
- Observational studies suggest that at least one in ten drivers engage in cell phone-related activities while driving.
- Dashboard displays in cars can also be distracting, but there is little regulation on their design and functionality.
Other Factors Affecting Pedestrian Safety
28:46 - 36:09
- Wearing noise-cancelling headphones while walking puts pedestrians at risk by reducing awareness of ambient traffic sounds.
- Both drivers and pedestrians being distracted by technology increases the risk of accidents.
- Road design and prevalence of manual transmissions may contribute to higher pedestrian deaths in Europe compared to the US.
- Other regarding behavior during the pandemic may have contributed to increased hostility on the road and more severe crashes.
- During the pandemic, there was a decline in other regarding behavior while driving, such as road rage.
- The decrease in traffic volume allowed for faster travel but also increased the severity of crashes.
Improving Pedestrian Safety
36:02 - 41:50
- Shared streets, where pedestrians and cars are intermixed, can be safer because it forces drivers to slow down and be more careful.
- Drivers' needs are prioritized too much in the US compared to other countries.
- Strategic changes can be made to high-crash areas to immediately reduce fatalities and injuries.
- Speed cameras are an effective tool for improving safety on roads.
- Ralph supports the use of speed cameras to reduce crashes and increase safety
- Narrowing roadways and adding pedestrian infrastructure can effectively slow down drivers
Future Improvements and Conclusion
41:28 - 44:53
- Creating a political constituency for change by focusing on parents of children and teenagers, as well as highlighting the benefits of non-driving activities
- Hope for future improvements that go beyond reducing speeds, such as creating local gathering places
- Future improvements in transportation infrastructure may include local breweries and cafes
- Making auto travel safer requires effort, coordination, cooperation, regulation, training, and technology