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Higher pedestrian injury numbers bring increased safety plans

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There has been a nationwide increase in pedestrian deaths from traffic accidents since 2009. Recently, such deaths are running about 15 percent higher than in 2009. Transportation officials in New York and other cities are studying the problem and making changes designed to lower the incidence of pedestrian injury and death.

To assist in those efforts, the U.S. Department of Transportation has slated $1.6 million in grants to cities for the promotion of pedestrian safety. One of the problems is that streets were often designed in the past without taking pedestrians into account. This has led to a new awareness by some big cities that they need to make some safety changes to protect the walking and bicycle riding public.

San Francisco was able to identify a small percentage of its streets that were seeing 60 percent of the serious pedestrian injuries and fatalities. That focus allows the city to put the resources where they'll do the most good. Some of the changes relate to making crosswalks more protected by more prominent paintings and markings. Also, there is a trend to strengthening the rules against drivers who violate the security of a crosswalks when pedestrians are in them. 

Los Angeles has the goal of eliminating pedestrian deaths by 2025. The task may be tougher in New York City, where the streets are more compact and the drivers still think that they own the roads, showing little deference to others. New York took a step right after its new mayor took office: it reduced the speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 mph, and in some special areas down to 20 mph.

That kind of reduction is said to have a disproportionately higher impact on reducing pedestrian injury numbers. New York is handing out more tickets and using cameras to catch violators. Big auto clubs like AAA have not, however, supported the city's efforts. It may take a while for some New York drivers to give up the resistance to slowing down, and to relinquish some of their time-honored driving habits that are not exactly pedestrian-friendly.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Cities Target Elevated Levels of Pedestrian Deaths", Andrew Tangel, Dec. 19, 2014

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