However, the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta area has again made the National Complete Streets Coalition list for the ten deadliest metro areas in the U.S. for pedestrians. The continued presence of the Atlanta metro area on this list suggests that the danger to pedestrians in our city might also be the product of insufficient pedestrian planning and roadway safety measures.
The 2014 Dangerous by Design study provides a range of data that reveals the magnitude of the risk faced by those who walk, jog and run. During the decade preceding 2012, over 47,000 people died while walking in the U.S. To put this number in perspective, the report indicates that this is 16 times the number of people who have died in national disasters during the same length of time. Another 676,000 pedestrians were injured during the same period, which amounts to an injured pedestrian every eight minutes.
The report outlined infrastructure factors that have contributed to the increased risk to pedestrians in the Atlanta area and other areas in the South. The development of these areas fostered a disproportionate number of low-density neighborhoods that are characterized by wider streets and higher traffic speeds to connect shopping areas, schools, and homes. Roads that the report references as “arterial roadways” are identified as posing an especially serious threat to pedestrians. Arterial roadways are designed to be wide, fast, and flat so they provide minimal delay for automobiles over longer distances. However, these same features make arterial roadways dangerous for pedestrians.
The study indicates that arterial roadways have increasingly become “main streets” that connect apartment buildings, commercial office complexes and shopping malls. The high-speed limits and paucity of pedestrian safety features like crosswalks and traffic signals make these roadways the most dangerous for pedestrians. According to the study, over half of pedestrian fatalities during the last decade have occurred on arterial roadways.
When public entities make a commitment to implementing safety features for those who walk, these efforts can reduce the number of pedestrian accidents. According to the U.S. DOT Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations, “Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation system.”
Although a texting driver who blows through a red light can be liable for running over a pedestrian, sometimes unsafe road design constitutes a significant factor in causing a pedestrian accident. When public entities fail to exercise reasonable care when designing or maintaining roadways, they can potentially be liable for injuries suffered in a pedestrian accident under certain circumstances.