According to the CDC, 5,977 pedestrians died in 2017 due to traffic accidents, many of which took place in urban environments. This number is concerningly high and rising in many places over the last ten years. Pedestrian deaths, along with driver/passenger deaths, are an unfortunate cost of the broad use of the automobile. That said, there are factors at play beyond the mere presence of vehicles on the road that hazard people’s health, including street design.
To measure and act on pedestrian death rates, statisticians created the Pedestrian Danger Index, or PDI. Continue on to learn what the Pedestrian Danger Index is and represents, as well as measures that can lower it.
Pedestrian Danger Index Defined
The number of pedestrian deaths in a certain area is one part of determining what the Pedestrian Danger Index is, but how can we tell how many people walk the streets each day? Typically, researchers depend on reported rates of those walking to work to represent the total number of walkers and determine how severe the PDI actually is.
Put simply, PDI is increasing despite the Highway Safety Improvement Program’s requirement that states meet self-set safety standards. It’s highest in southern states, with Florida far and away the most dangerous given Smart Growth America’s assigned PDI of 182, nearly 40 points above the second-highest state.
A Complete Streets Solution
Some suggest the reason this number increases nearly everywhere and remains high in southern regions is that states don’t embrace Complete Street policies. The idea behind Complete Streets is that cities allocate space for every type of person—bicyclists, walkers, runners, drivers, deliverers, and bussers. When designers pay attention to all kinds of people, they anticipate safety risks and plan them away. This promotes innovations that change our broken roadway system.
Beyond Complete Streets
Going even further than Complete Streets, many see a car-free future for cities and huge benefits for those on foot. In the near future, this looks like closing some streets off to non-public transportation vehicles. These small measures could help lower the overall PDI by clearing up the most dangerous intersections in a city.