In recent years, the concept of “walkable cities” has become a topic of conversation across the United States. As described by Project Drawdown, a walkable city “use[s] planning, design, and density to maximize walking and minimize driving.” Simply put, a walkable city encourages people to travel by foot by consolidating homes, workplaces, and other spaces and creating a safe, compelling environment for pedestrian traffic. Pedestrian-friendly cities offer wide, well-lit walkways, scenic views, inter-connected methods of mass transit, and safe walkways.
While many people are in favor of making cities safer for pedestrians and bikers, most cities in the U.S. are designed to cater primarily to the needs of drivers. This leads to instances where streets are unable to support pedestrians and motor vehicles at the same time, or where the safety of people on foot is compromised by the city’s emphasis on ease of travel for drivers. In this article, we discuss how dangerous or poorly designed roads can increase the risk of pedestrian accidents.
Why Are Pedestrian Accidents So Dangerous?
According to the injury attorneys at Stone Rose Law, pedestrian accidents can cause severe wounds that will “likely require latent medical care and cause long-term debilitation.” Since pedestrians do not have the frame of a car around them to offer a measure of protection during a crash, they absorb the force of the impact head-on. With very little protection in the event of a collision, even a low-speed impact can inflict life-changing or fatal harm on a pedestrian. Some of the most common injuries suffered by people in pedestrian crashes include:
- Broken or fractures bones
- Head, neck, or spinal injuries
- Back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Internal trauma or organ damage
How Dangerous Roads Increase the Number of Pedestrian Crashes
When a roadway confuses drivers or does not support pedestrians and motor vehicles coexisting in the same space, collisions and injuries can occur. Injuries caused by poorly designed or maintained roads frequently lead to personal injury lawsuits against the city, designer, or other parties that helped create the deadly situation.
Many cities have roads that a reasonable driver would find challenging to navigate, unless they had local knowledge of the area. Confusing roads may have inaccurate or misleading signage, unexpected dead-ends, or twists that lead a motorist back to the location they were coming from. Drivers that are familiar with the area may navigate these roadways at a high rate of speed, increasing the chances of a confused driver getting into an accident or striking an unsuspecting pedestrian.
To complicate matters further, many difficult-to-navigate roadways also feature misleading or confusing signage. Signs that are unique to a particular area may be off putting or hard to understand for a driver that isn’t from that region. Especially around intersections or other areas with a high volume of foot traffic, signage should be highly visible and easy to comprehend.
Roadway construction can significantly impact the ways in which a street or highway may be used. There may be slow-moving construction vehicles moving through traffic, construction workers or pedestrians walking around the area, or a reduced number of lanes available for motorists to travel in. In some cases, the road itself may be uneven or have other imperfections caused by the construction. These factors increase the risks to pedestrians and construction workers who may be working in the vicinity of heavy traffic.
Uneven or Poorly Maintained Roads
Some roads are uneven, either on both sides of the roadway or in specific two-lane segments. In such a case, trying to pass another vehicle on the left can cause a driver to lose control as they attempt to merge back into their initial lane, sending their car careening onto the sidewalk. Other elements of a poorly maintained road are also capable of leading to collisions. Potholes, faded road markings, and roadway debris can all cause damage to a driver’s car or make them lose control of their vehicle.
Inadequate Crossing Options for Foot Traffic
Being a pedestrian in a city that prioritizes ease of access for motor vehicles can be challenging and even outright dangerous, in some instances. Crosswalks that are at inconvenient locations or that are spaced too far apart can put a pedestrian’s life at risk simply crossing the street. To reduce the risk of pedestrian crashes, the Federal Highway Administration recommends installing safe pedestrian crossings at direct crossing locations, even if there is not a traffic light. Transit areas should also feature safe crossing options for people on foot.
Inadequate Drainage Systems
In areas that see substantial amounts of rain or snow, it is essential that roads have effective drainage systems to clear water off the roadway. Built-up water increases the risk of hydroplaning, which occurs when a vehicle loses traction between its tires and the road. Hydroplaning can lead to significant pileups or deadly pedestrian crashes.
Traveling Safely on Your City’s Sidewalks
The next time you go out for a walk down the street, be sure to keep your head on a swivel and keep an eye out for any traffic-related hazards. Although it may not always be possible to avoid a pedestrian accident, maintaining awareness of your surroundings goes a long way toward protecting yourself in a world built for cars and drivers.