Jun 28, 2023 - News

Houstonians drive faster

Data: StreetLight Data; Note: Top 30 cities by population from 2020 U.S. Census; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: StreetLight Data; Note: Top 30 cities by population from 2020 U.S. Census; Chart: Axios Visuals

Houston drivers tend to drive faster than the national average on major pedestrian roadways, making those streets more dangerous for people on foot.

  • Only 19.1% of Houston's major pedestrian roadways have average vehicle speeds under 25 mph, compared to the national average of 36%, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

Driving the news: The finding is based on a report from StreetLight Data, which tracks mobility trends using anonymous cellphone data and other sources.

  • The group's objective was to understand how fast vehicles are actually going and the impact on pedestrian safety, creating what it calls a Safe Speed Index.

The biggest danger zone? Fast-moving roads alongside busy retail and service areas with lots of foot traffic.

  • In urban areas across the nation, such arterial roadways make up about 15% of all roads but account for 67% of pedestrian deaths, per StreetLight Data.

By the numbers: Texas had 2.78 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2022, according to a separate report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

  • In Houston, that number was 5.16 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents, according to Texas Department of Transportation data.
  • There were 119 pedestrians killed in Houston in 2022.

The big picture: At least 7,508 pedestrians were struck and killed by drivers in the U.S. in 2022 — the most in 41 years — per the GHSA report.

  • At least 869 of those were killed in Texas, per TxDOT data.

Between the lines: Houston lawmakers in this legislative session tried — and failed — to pass a bill that would have allowed Texas cities to lower speed limits on residential streets to 20 mph without going through costly traffic studies.

Pedestrians are twice as likely to be killed in a collision when a car is traveling at 30 mph compared to 20 mph — and more than five times as likely when the car is going 40 mph — according to data from the AAA Foundation.

  • Time of day matters too; most pedestrian deaths occur at night.

What they're saying: "The saddest part is that these crashes are preventable," GHSA CEO Jonathan Adkins said in a statement.

  • "We know what works: better-designed infrastructure, lower speeds, addressing risky driving behaviors that pose a danger to people walking."

What's next: The Biden administration is proposing a new rule that would set higher performance standards for automatic emergency braking and pedestrian-detection technology, potentially reducing pedestrian deaths.

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