According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) (http://fhwa.dot.gov), Phoenix is listed in the top five cities that had the highest number of pedestrian fatalities last year. There were over 1500 pedestrian-related traffic accidents in Arizona in 2011, which is up 3 percent from 2010. Of these, 154 accidents led to fatalities. Surprisingly, the majority of pedestrians were injured or killed while crossing the road during daylight hours when weather or other conditions were not a factor.
In 2011, Phoenix became one of the FHWA’s focus cities. With national statistics showing a drop in the pedestrian accident rate, Phoenix’s increase has put it on the list of focus cities. Focus cities were chosen based on their high rate of pedestrian fatalities based on population or the number of pedestrian fatalities compared to national statistics. These cities will receive extra resources from the government to improve pedestrian safety. States become focus states once a city has been identified as needing assistance.
The FHWA program, known as the Focused Approach to Pedestrian Safety, set forth the goal to reduce pedestrian fatalities by 10 percent by 2011. With its 3 percent increase in pedestrian accidents in 2011, Arizona is now a focus of this program.
Arizona to Receive Assistance
Arizona will receive funds and guidance from the Federal government, such as “How to Develop a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan”. In addition, free technical assistance and courses and free bi-monthly webinars are available to assist local and state governments in city design and planning, which takes into account pedestrian traffic. An Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) spokeswoman, Laura Douglas, stated that Arizona is in the process of updating its bicycle and pedestrian safety plan.
Pedestrians may take some of the blame. Some Arizona cities, including Mesa, have cracked down on pedestrians who unsafely cross busy streets and ignore traffic signals by jaywalking. Pedestrians can also be distracted by cellphone usage and texting. Such activities while crossing a busy street can lead to a lack of awareness on behalf of the pedestrian and lead to accidents.
Several Arizona cities have already begun to take steps such as widening sidewalks, especially near schools, and installing state-of-the-art pedestrian traffic control signals, which improve the safety at busy crossings. These new signals, known as HAWK traffic signals, do not hold up traffic as long as traditional pedestrian signaling systems. Additional measures include installing streetlights, increasing pedestrian walkways in busy downtown areas and creating tunnels and bridges to route pedestrian traffic over or around vehicle traffic.