Pedestrians face high risk of involvement in motor vehicle collisions because too many roads are designed primarily for the use of vehicles, without taking pedestrian interests into account.
An experienced pedestrian accident lawyer supports efforts being made to develop better pedestrian infrastructure. The Governors' Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has provided insight for municipalities and city or project planners interested in exploring ways to reduce pedestrian collisions and make walking safer.
GHSA Tips for Improving Road Safety
Improvement of conditions for pedestrians should occur as part of a four stage process.
First, a needs assessment should be conducted to determine areas where improvements are most required. GHSA supports prioritizing school zones when making improvements for pedestrian infrastructure.
School zones should be assessed to consider pedestrian amenities, past crash data, and whether each area has a high number of pedestrians. When there are few pedestrians, it should be determined whether this is because of safety concerns. In school zones with a strong need for improved pedestrian conditions, a field study may be conducted to identify areas for improvement. Federal funding through the Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) program may be available.
Second, plans should be developed to address issues identified in the needs assessment. The third phase involves implementing the plans and the fourth phase involves monitoring and determining plan success.
GHSA presentations provide details on how to assess pedestrian safety when planning infrastructure improvements. The road safety assessment involves considerations including:
- Whether there are sidewalks on both sides of the street or whether there is a wide enough road shoulder for people to safely walk on.
- Whether the sidewalks and road shoulder are continuous or have gaps. The sidewalks and road shoulder should not be interrupted in too many location by driveways and must provide walkways on sides of any bridges in the area.
- Whether the sidewalks are safe for use. This means being free of temporary or permanent obstacles, having enough lighting to make it possible for pedestrians to see and be seen, and being removed from traffic. The walkways should also be wide enough and provide enough space for all pedestrians to use even during peak times, and should be large enough to reduce the risks of collisions between pedestrians and bicycle riders. The steepness of the walkway is also a concern, and ramps should be available on walkways where stairs are necessary. The sidewalks should also be located in areas where nothing obstructs the view of pedestrians for motorists driving their vehicles.
- Whether the sidewalks provide accessibility to mass transit and/or to residential areas.
By assessing these conditions, municipalities can determine what areas are most dangerous for pedestrians and most require infrastructure improvements. When poor road design results in a pedestrian suffering a collision, suing the government agency is possible under limited circumstances.
Drivers must also adjust their driving speed and behaviors to be safe for current conditions, which means slowing down when necessary and exercising reasonable care not to harm pedestrians when road conditions are suboptimal.