Safety advocates joined federal and state transportation agencies July 8 as the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a virtual safety summit with the first of three webinars to discuss ways to reduce pedestrian fatalities on the nation’s roadways.
“This virtual summit will share important information on how everyone can work together to reduce pedestrian fatalities,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a news release.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that in 2018, there were 6,283 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes, the highest since 1990 and 53 percent more than in 2009.
“While vehicle occupant fatalities declined in recent years, pedestrian fatalities actually increased,” Chao said in her opening remarks July 8.
Seventeen percent of all traffic fatalities in 2018 were pedestrians.
“There’s a sliver of positive news which can be found in the newest 2019 data indicating pedestrian fatalities decreased by two percent last year,” Chao said. “But these are preventable tragedies and that’s the reason for this national dialogue.”
Discussions and stakeholder presentations during the pedestrian safety summit is part of an effort to inform the department’s development of its national action plan on pedestrian safety.
“It has never been more important for all road users to be sober and focused on safe travel,” Chao said. “During the COVID-19 lockdowns this spring, millions of Americans eager to get outside found that sidewalks suddenly seemed very narrow. Seeking to social distance, many pedestrians detoured onto streets. Now fortunately there wasn’t as many cars as usual on the road, but there was heightened concern over pedestrian safety and many communities took steps to address it.”
NHTSA has designated October as pedestrian safety month and is working on educational materials. More information regarding the “USDOT Summit on Pedestrian Safety – Virtual Series” can be found at http://www.pedestriansafetysummit.com/.