The 10 Most Dangerous Cities for Walking

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This post comes from Des Toups at partner site Insurance.com

Watch your step, Florida.

Pedestrians crossing your wide, sunbaked streets are more likely to be struck and killed by a car than anywhere else in the country, according to the newly released 2014 edition of “Dangerous by Design.”

The advocacy group Smart Growth America calculated the Pedestrian Danger Index for 51 major metropolitan areas and for each state. Places where many people walk have more fatalities, so the index adjusts the number killed by the percentage of residents who walk to work, according to Census data.

Florida is the riskiest state for pedestrians, and the four deadliest cities for pedestrians lie within its borders: Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville and Miami.

Rounding out the worst 10 cities are Memphis, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Houston; Atlanta; Phoenix; and Charlotte, N.C. The 10 most dangerous states are:

  1. Florida
  2. Alabama
  3. Louisiana
  4. South Carolina
  5. Georgia
  6. Delaware
  7. Mississippi
  8. Arizona
  9. North Carolina
  10. Texas

For the complete rankings of cities and states, see “The Deadliest Places for Pedestrians.”

About 4,700 pedestrians are killed each year in the U.S., according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. While the total number of auto-related fatalities has fallen by a third since 2003, Smart Growth America notes, the number of pedestrian fatalities has risen in the five most recent years for which data are available.

“We are allowing an epidemic of pedestrian fatalities, brought on by streets designed for speed and not safety, to take nearly 5,000 lives a year,” says Roger Millar, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition at Smart Growth America.

Given Sunbelt states’ rankings, it’s not surprising that older Americans are the most vulnerable. Pedestrians age 65 and over make up 12.6 percent of the population and almost 21 percent of pedestrian fatalities. Children under 16 face the lowest risk, something Smart Growth America attributes at least in part to declining physical activity. Fatalities in that age group have fallen by 70 percent since 1984.

The group backs a slate of funding and policy changes for federally funded roads that, at street level, result in the kinds of changes you might expect, such as lower speed limits and bike lanes, but also could include:

  • Extended curbs to shorten crossing distances.
  • Pedestrian countdown signals.
  • Refuge islands on wider streets.
  • Midblock crossings.
  • Improved lighting.

Florida, for its part, has adopted a statewide bicyclist and pedestrian safety plan since the first Dangerous by Design report singled it out as the most hazardous state in America in 2011.

Orlando, for example, aggressively pursued drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians, issuing more than 4,600 tickets and warnings from June 2012 to June 2013. A conviction brings a $164 fine – and three points on the driver’s motor vehicle record, which could lead to an increase in car insurance rates as well. The city says the percentage of drivers who yield at crosswalks has risen from 12 percent to 48 percent.

An additional 67,000 pedestrians are injured in a typical year, NHTSA data show. Severe injury is very likely; 36 percent of pedestrians admitted to hospitals from 2008 to 2010 suffered a traumatic brain injury, says the New York State Department of Health. On average, their treatment cost $48,000.

A driver who injures a pedestrian is typically covered through his or her liability insurance policy. However, in most states, the legal minimum required is far below the amounts required to pay for a typical hospital stay. (In several states the required minimum is $15,000; you can find information for all states in “Understanding Minimum Insurance Requirements.”) Any assets you own such as a house or savings could be tapped to pay for what insurance doesn’t cover.

On the flip side, if you’re walking and hit by a driver who has no insurance, or very low liability limits, you can file a claim against your own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

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  • bigpinch

    The “sunbelt states” also have a larger proportion of Urban Outdoorsmen (AKA “The Homeless”). This is anecdotal but most of the so-called pedestrians who get run over in Austin, Texas, seem to be intoxicated, liminal, transients. I suspect that this is the case in other Southern states as well. So, the stats for this story are misleading. Drunks and fools are hazards unto themselves and no amount of urban engineering and legislation will change that.

    • Patrick Seitz

      If that’s the case, then the next logical question is why are there so many “drunks and fools” in that region?

      • bigpinch

        Because the climate, here, is better than trying to live on the street in Chicago or Minneapolis (for example). Austin also has this cultural fantasy about “keeping it weird,” which means putting up with all sorts of degenerate and irresponsible behavior. The area is a preferred destination for “the homeless.”