45 killed in auto-pedestrian crashes honored with 45 shoes
PROVO, Utah — Pedestrian fatalities in Utah, and across the country, are on pace to set the wrong kind of records this year. The number of pedestrians hit and killed by vehicles has been on the rise in recent years.
A pedestrian summit in Provo today focused on solutions that are already making a difference here and abroad. A national authority on pedestrian safety says slowing down the vehicles is one way to turn that trend around.
“We’ve got to think about cities in a different way. Walking should be the easiest thing to do, not the most difficult and challenging,” Dan Burden said who is the director of Blue Zones, that advocates for a longer, healthier, and happier lives.
Burden was the keynote speaker at today’s summit. He said traffic design in the U.S. typically favors the speed of the car over the safety of the pedestrian. And, that’s not good for the safety of the pedestrian.
“Make them the number one priority,” Burden said. “Build place. But build the cities for people. Allow the car to be serviced, but not dominate.”
With 39 pedestrian deaths already this year, Utah is on pace to surpass the record of 47 fatalities set in 2013. Nationally, pedestrian fatalities are projected to reach their highest level in 40 years, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Last year, an average of 20 pedestrians died every day on American streets.
Last year, 45 pedestrians were hit and killed on Utah roads. At the pedestrian summit there was a memorial in their honor comprised of 45 pairs of shoes and boots. Each of those pairs of footwear in the memorial represented one of those lives lost.
“We need to slow down the average speed in a city. Cities are not meant to be fast. They should be efficient, and they should honor all modes, all ways people want to get around,” Burden said. “If we’re going to honor the pedestrians and the bicyclists, the speeds have to come down.”
Earlier this summer, Salt Lake City dropped the speed limit in its neighborhoods from 25 mph to 20. Burden said that’s a good start.
“There are a lot of cities in Europe where you cannot drive more than 30 mph. You just can’t. The streets are not designed for that, and the population would not accept that.”
Heidi Goedhart, works on pedestrian and cyclist solutions for Utah Department of Transportation.
“By lowering the speeds you can give drivers greater time to anticipate when someone is going to be entering the roadway if they’re walking or biking,” she said.
It also reduces the force of impact, and gives the pedestrians a greater chance of survival, if they are here.
“Pedestrians are among our most vulnerable roadway users,” Goedhart said. “If you’re in a car, you have airbags, you have a steel frame protecting you from your environment. And if you’re a person that’s walking you just have your body.”
Roadway design can help improve pedestrian safety. That’s why we are seeing innovative, and more boldly marked pedestrian crossings in recent years.
“All users of the transportation system need to be thought of in every single project,” she said.
Frame of mind also matters. Whether we’re behind the wheel, or on foot, we need to put down the distractions and focus on what’s going on around us to avoid deadly collisions.
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