Infrastructure spending has long been devoted to serving the needs of vehicles, with little thought given to pedestrian safety. This is changing as the need to prevent pedestrian accident risks becomes more apparent.
An experienced pedestrian accident lawyer knows state and local governments are taking advantage of federal programs like the Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) program to secure funding to make improvements in walking conditions in school zones. Pedestrian accident prevention should be a top priority everywhere where infrastructure is not designed to maximize safety and reduce chances of a deadly crash.
How to Prevent Pedestrian Accidents With an Effective Road Safety Plan
A Governors' Highway Safety Association presentation identifies four steps in the creation of an effective plan to improve conditions for pedestrians. First, identifying problems is necessary and a needs assessment should be conducted. Once trouble areas have been determined, the second step is developing an effective program to solve pedestrian safety issues. Implementation is step three, followed by monitoring and evaluation to determine effectiveness.
School zones should be a top priority for new infrastructure spending to improve safety of pedestrians. A field review can identify school zones with the most significant need for improvements.
Different safety concerns should be identified and schools should be grouped into categories based on risk level, with infrastructure funds more immediately used to target higher-risk locations where pedestrians are in the greatest danger. The number of pedestrians currently using the school zone should be a factor in prioritizing infrastructure spending, although it is necessary to determine if low rates of pedestrian use are caused by lack of demand or by current safety concerns.
A road safety audit may be used to determine whether a location is safe for pedestrians. Similar audits can be used both in school zones and non-school zones to prioritize infrastructure spending; however, factors including bus drop off locations are only relevant in school zones. Criteria to consider in assessing the safety of any road for pedestrian use include:
- The existence of adequate sidewalks. Adequate sidewalks mean the sidewalks are present on both sides of the street, as well as on the sides of bridges. The sidewalks should not be interrupted by too many driveways, which result in suboptimal conditions for walking. Sidewalks should be wide enough to accommodate all pedestrian traffic likely to occur during peak times, and should be wide enough to reduce potential for conflicts between bicycle riders and walkers.
- The conditions of sidewalks. Sidewalks should be free from debris and from temporary or permanent obstacles. They should be well-maintained and should not be too steep for pedestrians to use safely. There should be adequate lighting at night, including street lights making it easier for pedestrians to see and be identified by drivers.
- The location of sidewalks. Sidewalks should be located far enough away from traffic to provide sufficient separation. They should provide access to residential neighborhoods or to mass transit.
Visibility issues. Fences, hedges and plant growth, and other obstacles should not be present to prevent drivers from seeing walkers on sidewalks.
By considering these and other relevant factors, local and state governments can develop effective plans to create safe roads on which pedestrian crash risks are reduced