I got the surprise of my life when people were complaining about a DR editorial. You mean the BYH column is not the...

Rethink roads to lower pedestrian deaths

Pedestrian Deaths Things to Know-1

A truck drives through a marked crosswalk in front of pedestrians in St. Paul, Minn., after deaths spiked to a 25-year high in Minnesota in 2016.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The number of pedestrians killed in the United States over the past decade or so — 49,340 between 2008 and 2017 — is about seven times higher than the number of Americans killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined.

Those are among the many sobering statistics from a recent report by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition, which rightly calls on local, state and national leaders to make safer roads a priority.

Perhaps even more troubling than the number of deaths, however, is the primary reason why our streets are so dangerous: We build them that way.

Over the 10-year study period, pedestrian deaths jumped by more than 35 percent while motorist deaths actually dropped by about 6 percent. And those shifts happened even as the nation drove slightly more and walked almost exactly the same amount.

In other words, our focus on building roads designed almost entirely for cars seems to be making things marginally safer for drivers, which is a good thing. But that slight improvement has come at great cost for pedestrians.

It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.

A big part of the problem is the way we measure the success of a road, which has a lot to do with a metric called “level of service.” Roads are given a letter grade based on traffic flow at peak hours. Congested roads fail, free-flowing roads get good grades.

But as the study correctly notes, “Minimizing vehicle delay as the number one goal often produces the roads that are the most dangerous by design.”

High traffic speeds are, not surprisingly, very closely correlated with pedestrian risk. The likelihood of a crash being fatal increases dramatically when cars are traveling faster than about 30 mph.

And the focus on moving traffic quickly isn’t just for pedestrians.

An incredible 340,000 American drivers lost their lives behind the wheel between 2008 and 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s about one person every 15 minutes.

Focusing on level of service also doesn’t necessarily mean taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck. Some roads with good grades are wastefully overbuilt, for example. Other streets with failing grades run through popular, desirable and highly productive neighborhoods.

As the study notes, Congress has a prime opportunity to make safer streets a priority as part of ongoing federal transportation funding efforts and a potential bipartisan push for infrastructure improvements. State and local governments need to be part of the solution as well.

The top priority ought to be rethinking basic street design.

“Rather than designing roads that encourage speeding and then relying upon enforcement, states and cities should design roads to encourage safer, slower driving speeds in the first place,” suggests the study.

We can also fix problematic roads by testing out a variety of traffic calming measures, many of which are relatively cheap and easy to implement — and easy to undo if they cause more problems than they solve.

The Post & Courier of Charleston, S.C.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


August 18, 2019

A nearly unanimous vote by the Greenville City Council this month to annex nearly 400 acres well outside the city limits raises questions about the rights of rural residents and the city’s direction when it comes to managing growth.

The council voted 5-1 with Rick Smiley in opposition to…


August 09, 2019

The Trump administration is considering a draft regulation to lower drug prices. North Carolinians have little reason to celebrate.

The administration’s proposal would impose price controls in Medicare. Rather than helping patients save money, this drastic step would stifle access to state-of-…

Mary Griswold.png

July 28, 2019

Everyone embroiled in the debate over the State Health Plan should be working toward the same thing: the best health care for the lowest cost for the people of North Carolina.

Unfortunately, disagreement over how to do that escalated into a feud and now has plummeted into a childlike spat.


Vidant medical center

July 21, 2019

“Send her back!”

The racist refrain, soft at first, crescendoed as the crowd at President Donald Trump’s “Keep America Great” rally on Wednesday in Greenville emphatically picked it up. On live television, sitting stage right of the President at East Carolina…


July 04, 2019

As the story goes, our Founding Fathers declared their independence from their mother country 243 years ago today, that the “united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown.”

It is a day that…

07-04-19 July 4th Flag2

June 10, 2019

As the election results became clear in 2016, financial markets rose amid a surge of economic optimism. That surge continued for two years as Donald Trump and Republicans pursued a pro-growth agenda of tax reform, deregulation and encouraging domestic energy production. But with Democrats now…

June 08, 2019

Keith Cox served the residents of Virginia Beach in the public utilities department for 12 years.

Well-liked by co-workers, he spent his final moments on Friday working to protect them from a gunman in the municipal center — sacrificing his life in the process.

The remembrance of Cox,…

APTOPIX Virginia Beach Shooting-6

June 04, 2019

Give Harry Smith credit for being willing to do his homework and change his mind.

Smith, the usually outspoken and politically conservative chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, emerged from a recent board meeting and told reporters that his thinking about what to do…

Confederate Monuments-5

June 03, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence came to Charlotte this week for a 2020 Republican National Convention kickoff event. The visit was a reminder of the discomfort many feel in this progressive city about the 2020 RNC — an uneasiness so deep that Mayor Vi Lyles said last summer that she wouldn’t…

RNC Charlotte 2020-4

June 01, 2019

A state budget is a spending plan, but the proposal the state Senate’s Republican majority presented Tuesday is better described as an anti-spending plan. It is an unalloyed version of Senate leader Phil Berger’s iron-rule of government: Cut taxes and spend the absolute minimum. If…

State Of The State North Carolina-3
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