Stark statistics are behind push to reduce pedestrian deaths

  • By Scott North
  • Thursday, June 16, 2011 12:54pm
  • Local News

The numbers are stark.

Pedestrians account for one in every 10 traffic-related deaths in Washington. Getting hit along a road is the third-highest cause of death among children in this state.

Those statistics help explain why the Washington Traffic Safety Commission has made one of its top priorities reducing fatal accidents involving walkers and bicyclists.

On Wednesday afternoon, Snohomish County saw another pedestrian fatality. Mickey Dean Bowen, 71, of Everett, died while trying to cross Highway 99 north of Lynnwood. Traffic was approaching. He tripped and fell. A driver was unable to stop. Bowen reportedly was not in a crosswalk.

Transportation for America, a public policy group, suggests too little is being done about pedestrian safety. Between 2000 and 2009, more than 47,700 pedestrians died nationwide, the group found.

That death toll is “the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing every month,” according to the group’s new report, “Dangerous by Design 2011.”

The report focuses on making the case that more investment is necessary to create safer travel options for people when they are moving about under their own power. Using the group’s “pedestrian danger index,” Washington ranked 34th among the states and the District of Columbia. In other words, there are deadlier places to walk. But part of the group’s research involved mapping the locations of each death involving pedestrians or bicyclists across the country. That online map allows you to drill down for a look at local roads. The black markers for deaths along Highway 99 in Snohomish County jump from the map, particularly south of Everett.

Its not like those tragedies have escaped notice. There have been studies and calls for improvements, particularly after the 2009 death of a man in a wheelchair who was killed trying to roll across the highway.

And similar risk can be found along more bucolic roads, said Rebecca Hover, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

Sgt. Scot Fenter, who investigates traffic collisions for the sheriff’s office, says many pedestrian-involved mishaps occur along county roads with no shoulders. Pedestrians often will walk on the fog line. Add in rain, the Pacific Northwest penchant for dark clothing, and routes with lots of curves and hills, and the situation gets dangerous quickly.

The “Dangerous by Design” report notes that many people walk in hopes of living better:

“Americans get to pick their poison: less exercise and poor health, or walking on roads where more than 47,000 people have died in the last 10 years.”

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