US-19 is Now the Deadliest Road in America for Pedestrians
According to an online news report posted on vox.com, US-19 in New Port Richey, Florida, has been identified as the most dangerous road in the United States for pedestrians by researchers. Although this section of US-19 is wide, flat, and straight, the roadway has endured numerous fatal collisions. US-19 runs through several cities, including Holiday, Port Richey, Hudson, and New Port Richey.
US-19 is a highly developed road with Walmarts, Publix stores, hotels, Dunkin's, tire and brake stores, condemned buildings, oil change shops, restaurants, and a mini-golf course. Walking along US-19, you will notice that the speed limit spans 45 to 55 miles per hour, and the vehicles are going much faster than the posted speed limits. The problem for pedestrians is the lack of crosswalks, and US-19 wasn't designed for pedestrians.
Robert Schneider, a professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, along with three colleagues, decided to examine pedestrian death data to identify why there are so many fatal pedestrian collisions on US-19. Using government fatal crash data Schneider and his colleagues examined the pedestrian deaths registered between 2001 and 2016. Their vision was to pinpoint accident hot spots, which are 1,000-meter segments of highway where six or more pedestrians were tragically killed. The researchers believed that by finding similarities, they could prove the deaths were not random.
The researchers expected to discover some overlap. Out of the 60 hot spots the researchers discovered, seven deaths were on US-19 in Pasco County, and this was more than any other roadway in the United States. In Pasco County, there were 137 pedestrian deaths throughout Pasco County, which is an incredibly high number.
The researchers also examined deaths through 2016. The Florida Department of Transportation showed that fatal pedestrian accidents had been an ongoing problem. Nearly 50 pedestrians were killed on US-19 in Pasco County from 2017 until June 2022. The report states that there have been about 34 deaths per 100 miles of US-19. This means US-19 is the deadliest road in Florida.
In 2020, over 6,700 pedestrians were tragically killed while walking or using wheelchairs on U.S. roads. The Governors Highway Safety Association has projected that the pedestrian death rate increased by 21 percent, which is the largest annual increase in history. In 2020, about 39,000 people were tragically killed in car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued its preliminary findings, and the NHTSA's deputy administrator stated that the agency hadn't seen trends like this, and immediate action was required to be taken.
In 2021, the issue became even worse. The Governors Highway Safety Association discovered that motorists tragically killed nearly 7,500 pedestrians. This was also an 11.5 percent increase in 2020, and this was the most pedestrian deaths recorded in about 40 years. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that over $5 billion in funding was released to local governments in order to make roads safer.
In 2021, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) installed new crosswalks at intersections where crosswalks were missing. Also, curbs and LED streetlights were added to improve safety. This is needed since pedestrians frequently have to cross eight or nine traffic lanes on US-19.
If fatal pedestrian crashes are believed to be random, then pedestrian crash deaths would be evenly distributed throughout the country. But pedestrian deaths aren't random. The roads with the most pedestrian fatalities are similar to US-19: multiple traffic lanes, high speed, and lots of commercial development near them.
Road design is not the only element contributing to increased pedestrian deaths. The size of trucks and SUVs has grown larger and larger, making collisions more deadly. Experts also believe the surge in pedestrian fatalities across the country is due to a disruption in normal traffic patterns while Americans remained at home during the pandemic.
Traffic safety experts also believe there is a lot more that can be done to make sure streets are safer for pedestrians. For example, the government could invest in public transit, install additional speed traps and traffic cameras. Auto manufacturers could also install speed-limiting technology to slow vehicles down.
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