On a walk to my local grocery the other day I observed an older gentleman walking in my neighborhood. He was average looking in every way except that he was wearing head-to-toe florescent orange safety gear. For a walk in the neighborhood. How dangerous do our sidewalks and streets seem to people that some feel the need to wear clothing that looks as if they are working on a highway crew? The absolutely absurd has become completely normal.
I read an interesting article by Jerry Large in the Seattle Times this past August titled “What Can Make Streets Safer? You”. He starts out his essay with the statement “Cars are not the only danger on the road, but they are the most deadly…”
I’ve been thinking a lot about safety and bicycles and cars lately. I was surprised to learn that every year for the last 10 years, 30,000 to 40,000 people die in car accidents in the United States. 30,000 to 40,000 people. Per year. The US leads the race to the bottom in this statistic compared to other industrialized countries. In fact, we have won this race to the bottom handily.
If the US had some other transportation system that suffered 30,000 fatalities a year, the public would be up in arms and studies would have been conducted to help understand and solve this serious safety issue. Imagine if 30,000 people a year died riding Amtrak. Unthinkable.
Large’s article goes on to mention that pedestrian traffic deaths have risen over the last several years, and that DOT blames the victims. Are there more intoxicated or distracted pedestrians? That might explain it.
Statistics provided by the federal DOT also show that in a majority of accidents, the driver of the car was traveling within the posted speed limit.
To return to the quote that I started with above, cars are the most deadly transportation choice we make. On the Walking in Seattle Blog there is a really interesting and sobering info-graphic that shows this in the number of roadway deaths in Seattle for the last 10 years. Study the graph. It is astounding that we have become so accustomed to the violence that automobiles create all around us.
We can improve the safety of our streets, but we must stop blaming the victims and focus on the true safety issues. In general we travel too fast for most of the conditions we drive in on city streets. It would be much safer for everyone if we reduced speeds for cars in all neighborhoods.
Update traffic laws to better serve all users of the road. Let’s make the streets safer for all.
National Pedestrian Crash Report
What Can Make Streets Safer? You – by Jerry Large
Walking in Seattle