Canton Repository

December 3, 2004

Pedestrian deaths dropping

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Fewer pedestrians are being killed in auto accidents, but walking remains more dangerous than driving, a study released Thursday indicates.

Deaths rose in Ohio overall, while falling in Stark and Carroll counties.

“Nearly 52,000 pedestrian deaths over the last 10 years is a staggering figure that demands that we do much more to make walking a safer travel option,” said Anne Canby, president of Surface Transportation Policy Project, author of the study. She said the report “provides a useful yardstick for elected officials and transportation leaders to measure progress.”

Across the nation, 4,827 pedestrians died in 2003, down from 4,919 in 2002, the report said. The number killed fell from 1994 and 1995, a period covered by an earlier study.

In Ohio, 101 pedestrians were killed in 2003, up from 88 in 2002. But in Stark and Carroll, four pedestrians lost their lives in 2003, down from five in 2002, the report said. The study did not have figures for Tuscarawas County.

The report said walking is more dangerous than driving when factoring in the number of miles traveled. Based on 2001 figures, the fatality rate for walkers was 20.1 deaths per 100 million miles walked. Drivers and their passengers had a much lower fatality rate of 1.3 deaths for every 100 million miles traveled.

Columbus was among the urban areas where pedestrian safety declined, based on number of deaths, the report said. It ranked sixth among metropolitan areas for declines in safety since 1994 and 1995. Eighteen walkers lost their lives in the Columbus area in 2003, up from 13 in 2002.

Orlando, Fla., had the worst record.

“The most dangerous metro areas, all located in the South or West, tend to be marked by lower-density development patterns, which include wide, high-speed arterials that are particularly hazardous for walking,” the study said.

Less than 1 percent of federal transportation funds are spent to make the streets safer for walkers, according to the report. The study recommended improving sidewalks and intersections, directing more money to local governments and including pedestrian planning in transportation projects as ways to improve safety.

Brian Cunningham, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said pedestrian improvements are primarily a local responsibility.

“We don’t have a lot of sidewalks” in the network of highways the state controls, he said. “Most of our network is designed to handle heavier volumes of traffic.”

Cunningham said municipalities are responsible for the state and federal routes within their boundaries, where there is more pedestrian traffic.