For pedestrians, Utah's streets are safer than most
A Utahn is four times less likely than a Floridian to be killed in a pedestrian-traffic accident, according to a new national study.
And not surprisingly, that Utahn's chances of being involved in a fatal auto-pedestrian accident is greater in Salt Lake County than in any of the state's four other metropolitan areas, although Provo-Orem and Ogden-Clearfield are not far behind.
Those figures were part of a report released Tuesday by the National Complete Streets Coalition that looked at the 47,000 pedestrian fatalities that occurred around the country from 2003 to 2012.
"This report shows elected officials that safety for all users must be a priority," said Roger Millar, the coalition's director, highlighting the study's determination that "we can prevent the majority of [pedestrian deaths] by taking deliberate steps to do so through better policy, design, practice and regulation."
Most deadly auto-pedestrian accidents happen along roads with speed limits of 40 mph or greater, the study said, noting that these arterials were "planned and engineered for speeding automobiles with little consideration for the diversity of people young, old, with and without disabilities, walking and bicycling who rely on these streets to get them from point A to point B."
Federal, state and local governments should be encouraged to give greater consideration to pedestrians in constructing or rebuilding roads, said Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of social impact for AARP, a coalition member.
"The streets in our communities are not working for older Americans," she said, adding that 20 percent of people over age 65 no longer drive and need to walk "to stay connected to their communities."
With the baby boomer generation reaching senior status, the number of Americans 65 and older is expected to double to 70 million by 2030. "A community friendly for an 80-year-old can be safer for an 8-year-old and everyone in between," LeaMond said.
Utah finished in the middle of the pack or better in several of the study's ratings:
• The state's "Pedestrian Danger Index" of 37.8 was 25th in the country, based on 279 pedestrian fatalities among 2,706 traffic deaths. That was significantly below the worst 168.6 in Florida. Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia rounded out the bottom five.
• In terms of metropolitan areas, 132 pedestrian deaths in that 10-year period gave greater Salt Lake a danger index of 55.28, 33rd highest and comparable to Denver and Columbus, Ohio.
Again, Florida had the most problems, posting the four worst scores. Orlando is the most dangerous pedestrian city with a rating of 244.28, followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville and Miami.
• Ogden had a slightly higher percentage of fatal traffic accidents involving pedestrians than Salt Lake did (16.5 percent versus 15.7 percent).
• About 59 percent of Utah's pedestrian deaths occurred on roads with speed limits exceeding 40 mph, while only 11 percent took place on streets whose limits were 30 or under.
• Of the 4,394 children killed on the nation's highways between 2003 and 2010, 46 were in Utah.
"Pedestrian safety is always a big concern for us," said Salt Lake County Public Works Director Russ Wall, citing an ongoing campaign to put more sidewalks in unincorporated-area neighborhoods.
"We also try to make sure we have crosswalks that are clearly marked and lighted," he said, adding "you can never do enough."