Around the country, state departments of transportation are sponsoring public outreach campaigns in support of the fourth annual “National Pedestrian Safety Month” this October; an effort originally launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2020.
[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]
According to NHTSA data, pedestrian injuries and fatalities remain high. For example, in 2021, 7,388 pedestrians were killed on U.S. roads – a 13 percent increase from 2020 – and more than 60,000 pedestrians were injured nationwide.
“We’ve lost too many friends, neighbors and loved ones to traffic crashes – many who are just out for a walk,” noted Craig Thompson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and vice president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, in a statement.
“These tragic incidents have a lasting impact on our communities [and] we need to do everything we can to protect people who face greater injury on the roads,” he said. “Drivers: use caution. Pedestrians: pay attention to your surroundings. We must all share the road to stay safe.”
The number of pedestrians killed in crashes in Wisconsin rose 44 percent in 2022, noted the Wisconsin DOT; rising from 50 deaths in 2021 to 72 in 2022. While preliminary data shows improvement in the number of pedestrian-involved crashes this year, fatalities remain high. So far in 2023, 49 people were killed in 880 pedestrian-involved crashes in Wisconsin.
To raise awareness about pedestrian safety this month, the Wisconsin DOT is engaged in several ongoing efforts, including “Control Your Drive,” “Buckle Up Phone Down” and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaigns.
“Reckless, distracted and impaired driving cause way too many crashes in Wisconsin, and they’re the most preventable incidents if drivers take responsibility for safety on the roads,” explained David Pabst, director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Transportation Safety. “We hope that by sharing crash data and information about the dangers of these driving behaviors, people will realize it’s not worth the risk.”
TxDOT said that while only 1 percent of vehicle crashes in Texas involve pedestrians, they make up 19 percent of all traffic deaths. In the last five years, pedestrian traffic fatalities in Texas increased 29.6 percent, reflecting nationwide trends. In 2022, 5,764 traffic crashes involving pedestrians occurred in Texas, resulting in 829 deaths and 1,526 serious injuries.
“As we shift to fewer hours of daylight, it’s up to drivers and pedestrians to adapt and help keep our roads safe,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams in a statement. “Motorists need to stay alert and look for people walking, and pedestrians can take measures to be seen by drivers who may be inattentive behind the wheel.”
To that end, TxDOT’s ongoing ‘Be Safe. Drive Smart” campaign includes TV and radio spots, billboards, and digital advertising to raise awareness regarding pedestrian safety. The agency said it is also using more than 30 “walking billboards” – street teams wearing sandwich boards – to towns that saw the highest numbers of fatalities from pedestrian-related traffic crashes. The street teams will be deployed to put pedestrian safety messages front and center in places where vehicles and pedestrians share the road.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Department of Transportation placed neon pedestrian figures – dubbed “neon navigators” – at busy intersections along critical corridors throughout the metro-Denver area as part of its efforts to promote pedestrian safety statewide.
The bright neon figures – designed to capture the attention of pedestrians and drivers alike – feature safety messaging emphasizing the importance of safe behaviors at crosswalks and intersections. To help engage and educate pedestrians further, each neon navigator included a QR code directing viewers to the agency’s pedestrian webpage, which contains a variety of safety tips and resources.
Colorado DOT noted that the state suffered a record-breaking 115 pedestrian deaths in 2022, accounting for 15 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities, with 81 pedestrian fatalities suffered statewide so far in 2023.
“This increase in pedestrian fatalities is deeply concerning,” said Darrell Lingk, director of Colorado DOT’s Office of Transportation Safety, in a statement. “Our neon navigators represent a call to action — urging all Coloradans to take responsibility for pedestrian safety by following speed limits, using crosswalks, staying off their phones and being alert behind the wheel,” he added.