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New Study Addresses High Rates of Pedestrian-Vehicle Collisions in the Suburbs

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City Streets May Pose Fewer Risks to Pedestrian Safety Than Suburban Roads, Study Finds

Drivers and pedestrians alike may assume that busy urban streets pose the most dangers to pedestrians. While pedestrian accidents do happen much too frequently in urban areas like New York City and Philadelphia, a new study suggests that suburban roads may actually be more dangerous to pedestrians than urban streets. The study was reported by a local NPR station and was conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

In the study, researchers analyzed four years of car accident data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. They investigated records for all motor vehicle accidents that occurred in five different counties around Philadelphia, and accounted for “population data, socioeconomic factors, different road types, and other factors.” What the study concluded was surprising: “the densest parts of the region—like downtown Philly or suburban town centers—had lower accident rates than more sprawling areas” around the Philadelphia suburbs.

“In a relatively dense city like Philadelphia, you see traffic safety benefits coming with high density,”  says Erick Guerra, one of the co-authors of the study and an assistant professor of urban planning at the University of Pennsylvania. In other words, pedestrian safety initiatives in Philadelphia may actually be working to reduce pedestrian accident rates, while pedestrian accidents in the suburbs are not being adequately addressed by city planners and lawmakers outside the city center. The high rate of vehicle/pedestrian accidents in suburban areas may also be tied to the fact that suburban roads, unlike streets in downtown Philadelphia, are designed solely for motor vehicle use, rather than shared use by vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

According to Guerra, the most dangerous type of roads for pedestrians in Philadelphia suburbs are “the multi-lane arterial stroad.” Stroads are types of roads “that replace many older Main Streets” and “aim to speed traffic through densely populated areas.” The speed limits are much higher than those on downtown city streets, and there are fewer stop lights to curb speeding traffic, making them especially dangerous for pedestrians to walk along or to cross.

Tips for Staying Safe as a Pedestrian

Whether you are walking on a busy urban street with sidewalks and crosswalks, or are walking in a largely suburban area that is less densely populated, it is important to remember tips for staying safe. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recommends the following safety tips for pedestrians:

  • Make yourself visible;
  • Remain in well-lit areas;
  • Remain alert;
  • Avoid any distractions, including listening to music, talking on the phone, or texting;
  • Follow traffic rules, and pay attention to street signs and signals;
  • Assume that drivers do not see you and take steps to be seen, as well as making eye contact with drivers before you cross the street;
  • Use crosswalks when they are available;
  • Walk on sidewalks when they are available; and
  • Never walk on roads prohibited for pedestrians, such as highways.

If you need help filing a pedestrian accident claim, you should discuss your case with a pedestrian accident attorney as soon as you can.

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