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In the last two years, every single state in the U.S. but one has gotten more dangerous for pedestrians. For the new edition of its biannual Pedestrian Danger Index, Smart Growth America reportedly studied local walking rates, federal crash fatality data, and population totals between 2010 and 2019 to get a sense of which states were making progress towards Vision Zero.
As aforementioned, death rates across the country swelled. The number of people struck and killed by drivers grew 45% over the study period. But the researchers observed a “grotesque Groundhog’s Day phenomenon at the metro level, too.”
And while California isn’t on the list of the 10 most-dangerous states in the country, the city of Bakersfield is the second most dangerous metro area in the U.S. From 2010 to 2019, Bakersfield had 260 pedestrian fatalities. California ranked no. 16 on the most dangerous states list. During the study’s time period, there were 7,891 deaths in the state.
Out of 200 cities, Allstate ranked Bakersfield as the 82nd safest city to drive in the U.S.’ most populous cities.
Moreover, the 10 most-dangerous states in the country are the same 10 states as the last time the report was issued in 2019. In order, these are: Florida, Alabama, New Mexico, Mississippi, Delaware, Louisiana, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. In their research, the group found that only Rhode Island was able to maintain the same rate of pedestrian deaths as it had between 2008 and 2017.
At the metro level, seven out of 10 of the country’s most-dangerous urbanized areas are in Florida. The only new entries into the most-terrible 20 were the metro areas around Stockton, California, Houston, El Paso, and Atlanta.
The report also revealed horrifying disparities among racial and economic groups, which were also the same as they ever were. Even after controlling for differences in population and walking rates, people of color on foot were still disproportionately likely to be killed by drivers between 2010 and 2019. That was especially true among Native American and Black pedestrians, both of whom are still more than twice as likely to die on our roadways than their White counterparts. The authors attributed this to the country’s bloody history of structural racism in transportation funding and policy, as well as the implicit racial bias of White drivers who have been shown to be less likely to stop for BIPOC in crosswalks.
Similarly, crash rates were also highest in the lowest-income census tracts, and lowest in the highest-income neighborhoods.
“My niece Samara and three of her four kids were tragically killed on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia almost eight years ago — but I’m far from alone,” said Latanya Byrd, who delivered a presentation in support of the report’s recommendations. “Dozens of families like mine are left to mourn someone every year because of the way this incredibly dangerous street divides our neighborhoods and makes speeding the norm. When streets are built like Roosevelt — wide, fast, and with few safe places to cross — it is no surprise that drivers are going to speed and people are going to die. How long before our streets are as safe as our leaders claim they want them to be?”