Amid Rising Pedestrian Fatality Rates, Federal Agencies Unveil Grants and Online Tools for Safety Initiatives

A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) covering auto accidents involving pedestrians shows that in 2011, for the second year in a row, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased from the year before. In response, the Department of Transportation (DOT), which includes the NHTSA, announced the availability of pedestrian safety grants to cities with high rates of pedestrian deaths.

The DOT named 22 cities eligible for the grants. Unfortunately, Tampa is not on the list, despite ranking second in the nation in pedestrian fatalities in a survey by Transportation for America, a nonprofit transportation safety organization. Four other Florida cities – Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, and Orlando – made the list and are eligible for the grants.

The grants are limited in size and scope and will not be used to make any upgrades to infrastructure. They total $2 million and are intended for education and enforcement initiatives.

Another tool available to communities to improve pedestrian safety is a new NHTSA website called “Everyone is a Pedestrian.” The site brings together resources and tips that communities can use to keep pedestrians safe, such as information to help parents teach children about safe walking, reports on effective existing projects to improve safety, and guides for community safety advocates.

“Pedsafe,” a project of the Federal Highway Administration, is another website available to communities with pedestrian safety issues. It contains suggestions for engineering, education, and enforcement initiatives, including case studies of actual implementations of those ideas.

“We continue to see high rates of pedestrian fatalities in major cities and across every demographic,” said David Strickland, administrator of the NHTSA, in the agency’s announcement. “To help stop the recent increase in deaths and injuries, we need everyone to play a role in pedestrian safety. Working with partners on the federal, state, local and individual level, we hope to turn this concerning trend around.”

One attention-grabbing fact in the recent NHTSA report is that alcohol played a role in nearly half of all auto accidents in which a pedestrian died. That means either the driver or pedestrian had been drinking. And over one third of the pedestrians killed were legally drunk.

According to NHTSA reports, pedestrian fatalities declined each year from 2005 to 2009. Despite this mitigating factor, a two-year trend of increasing deaths should not be taken lightly. It is the responsibility of safety groups, individual drivers and pedestrians, and all levels of government to work together to improve the safety of our roads for all users.

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