November 02, 2019

Ryan Knappenberger

Rising pedestrian fatalities raise concerns in Valley

A report by Smart Growth America named Arizona’s 7th Congressional district, which includes most of Phoenix and parts of Glendale, to be the most dangerous district in the country, particularly for pedestrian fatalities.

The report, released in July of 2019, was conducted by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition, two non-profit organizations focused on improving infrastructure in terms of safety and sustainability.

The report tracked pedestrian fatalities between 2008 and 2017. In that time period, there were 344 pedestrian deaths in the 7th district, the highest in the nation.

The district also ranked first for the highest pedestrian fatality rate at 4.48 deaths per 100,000 people.

The entire city of Phoenix experiences more casualties per capita than New York City.

According to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, in 2016, cars killed 90 pedestrians and injured 615 more in a city of 1.6 million residents. New York City, a city of over 8.6 million people, suffered just 137 deaths.

Elisa Arenas, a Phoenix resident and mother, called the statistic “disappointing” and highlighted speeding as a primary concern for pedestrians.

Halloween raises extra concerns over pedestrian safety, especially for young children.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, a non-profit organization that advocates for child safety, children are more than twice as likely to be hit and killed by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year.

According to the National Safety Council, October ranked as the second highest month in 2017 for motor vehicle deaths with 3,700. July was ranked highest with 3,830 deaths.

Arenas said she still plans on trick-or-treating on Halloween with her young son, but will take measures such as using reflective clothing and flashlights to stay visible to drivers at night.

“We will most likely go to safer neighborhoods than our own, I heard Gilbert is the safest so that’s an idea,” Arenas said.

The NSC provided multiple safety tips for costumes, pedestrians and for drivers. The NSC recommended that costumes should avoid masks to not obstruct vision and to apply reflective tape or provide glow sticks to the children so they are visible in the dark.

The NSC also recommended that new, inexperienced drivers should be discouraged from driving on Halloween.

Cars are not only dangerous for trick-or-treaters, college students are particularly vulnerable to be hit by cars.

According to a 2013 report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, vehicular injury is the number two leading cause of death among college students, only following all injuries, which combines vehicular and non traffic injuries.

The study also found that alcohol-related accidents made up half of the vehicular injury cases.

Savana Olivas, a Kinesiology major at Arizona State University,  said she commutes to school and described her difficulties with pedestrians.

“They’re often impatient and I see a lot of people jaywalking, not just diagonally from the crosswalk but also in the middle of any road,” Olivas said.

“People also jaywalk at night and they don’t wear any bright colors so its hard to see them,” Olivas said.

Simur Khurana, also a Kinesiology major at Arizona State University, said he lives on campus and that he uses a scooter to travel around downtown.

“There are many times late at night when cars don’t even stop at stop signs and if I were crossing and didn’t stop myself, I would’ve definitely been run over,” Khurana said.

In April, the Phoenix City Council considered but failed to pass a measure to join the Vision Zero program, an organization working to eliminate all traffic fatalities. Cities such as Portland, San Francisco, New York City and Tempe are Vision Zero cities.

The measure failed after the vote tied 4-4. The plan would have reduced speed limits and narrowed lanes in areas with high collision rates.