Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pedestrian deaths a call to action

From Local Motion/ Burlington Free Press

In the first two months of 2012, Vermont has suffered five pedestrian fatalities. This is already more than we typically see in an entire year. What has gone wrong?
Jan. 1: In Rutland City, 54-year-old Nancee Gell was killed while crossing South Main Street.
Jan. 11: In Brattleboro, 68-year-old Susan Press died of injuries from being hit on Western Avenue last November.
Feb. 15: In Burlington, 63-year-old Bruce Lapointe died of injuries received when was hit in the crosswalk on Barrett Street Feb. 6.
Feb. 21: In Rutland, 57-year-old Deborah Campbell was pushing her husband in a wheelchair when a hit-and-run driver struck her from behind.
Feb. 23: In Brattleboro, 64-year-old Gary Lumbra was killed while walking along Canal Street.
These pedestrians were not darting in and out of traffic. They were mature citizens doing their best, often under conditions that make safe walking harder than it should be: deteriorated or missing sidewalks, faded crosswalks, and distracted drivers. These crashes and fatalities truly were avoidable.
We Vermonters pride ourselves on our care for one another. It is time for us to take responsibility for pedestrian safety. Here are a few first steps.
Drive responsibly: An inattentive driver can cause life-altering harm in seconds. Drive attentively, go slow in populated areas, and pull over before using electronic devices.
Use safety gear: Reflective gear makes you visible from far enough away to give a driver time to react. Local Motion offers a $6 coupon for safety gear. Download the coupon at: www.SafeStreets
Support pedestrian safety initiatives: The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission works with towns to plan for and fund sidewalks, intersection improvements and other projects that make walking safer. Encourage your town to take advantage of the RPC's expertise and resources.
Help educate others: Join the Safe Streets Collaborative, an outreach effort launched by Local Motion, the city of Burlington and others in 2008, after two hit-and-runs. Contact Jason Van Driesche or 861-2700 x109.
Demand better street design: Thanks to AARP of Vermont, the Legislature passed a "Complete Streets" bill last session to ensure that streets are designed with everyone's safety and mobility in mind. Now we need to help our towns implement this policy. Contact Jason Van Driesche at or 861-2700 x109 to learn how to be an effective advocate.
Until recently, Vermont was a shining star for pedestrian safety. A 2012 national study ranked Vermont as the safest state in the nation for pedestrians. The analysis found that a pedestrian in Florida -- the most dangerous state -- was almost 20 times as likely to be killed as a pedestrian in Vermont.
After years of progress, trends are heading in the wrong direction. At the national level, a recent assessment by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that pedestrian deaths nationwide increased by more than 4 percent and pedestrian injuries jumped an alarming 19 percent in 2010 relative to 2009. In Brattleboro, car/pedestrian collisions were up 75 percent in 2011.
No one is quite sure why pedestrian deaths and injuries are increasing, but there are some likely culprits. Distracted driving plays a major role. High-speed arterial roads with few safe crossings are also a problem. And the issue of pedestrian distraction -- texting while walking, for instance -- can't be ignored.
Vermont can't rest on our "safest state" laurels. It's too early to tell if the recent increase in pedestrian injuries and deaths is part of a sustained trend. But every person killed or injured is one too many, and it's time to start making our roads and streets safer again.
While pedestrian safety is everyone's responsibility, it can't be solved through individual actions alone. We need to work together to build safety into how our streets work. With leadership from VTrans, the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Program, the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, and others, we can reclaim our title as the safest and most enjoyable state for people-powered transportation.
Jason Van Driesche of Burlington is the director of advocacy and education at Local Motion, northwest Vermont's nonprofit walk-bike advocates.

1 comment:

  1. Recently have become very concerned over the rise in pedestrian fatalities in traffic. Each year more and more automobiles are on the road and there are no accommodations for this increase. The age range is around 50-65 for the highest rate of deaths and these poor folks are simply trying to obtain better health by walking and they are killed. What is the Vermont Legislature going to do? someone must write a bill to present to the Senate for the protection of walkers from left hand turn cars and trucks. I will write the bill, who will help me?

    Thank you for reading.